Heidi Lueders, the Fairfield woman who was accused of leaving five Pitbulls under her care to die at her rental home in 2018, was sentenced on Wednesday to five years in prison, suspended after 15 months served.
Judge Peter McShane handed down the sentence during a hearing in Bridgeport Superior Court on Wednesday. He also ordered Lueders to undergo a mental health evaluation, submit to periodic urine drug testing, and pay restitution for the damage she caused to the rental home. She also must complete an animal cruelty prevention course, in addition to five years probation. Leuders is expected to remain free on bond while she appeals the sentencing.
Leuders Found Guilty of Property Damage
On January 15, 2019 Heidi Lueders - President of CT-based Bully Breed Rescue, Inc - was arrested for the starvation to death of 5 dogs in her home, where their decomposed and skeletonized remains were found in a house in deplorable and filthy conditions. Police also found evidence of drug use around the house.
In February, McShane had found Lueders not guilty of five counts of felony animal cruelty and five counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty after after a medical expert testified that because of their deteriorated condition he couldn't say how the dogs died.
However, the judge refused a request by Lueders' lawyer, Robert Serafinowicz, not to consider the death of the dogs in sentencing her to the one charge he did convict Lueders of - first-degree criminal damage to property.
The prosecutor on the case, Assistant State's Attorney Felicia Valentino, sought jail time for Lueders, in part, due to a seeming lack of remorse and the damage Lueders inflicted on the rental home. According to Valentino, the cleanup of the home cost Kelly Roberts, the owner, in excess of $150,000. Roberts later lost the home to foreclosure.
"The death of those innocent dogs does impact the case," the judge said. "The dogs that died were left to rot, left to decay in their cages and it's horrific."
The judge added that he was also taking into consideration what Lueders did after he found her not guilty of the animal cruelty charges, going on social media and bragging about her acquittal. "There was no acceptance of responsibility," the judge added.
Leuders Blamed Heroin Addiction
When allowed to speak to the court, a tearful Lueders, wearing an American flag bandana as a Covid mask, blamed the situation on a severe heroin addiction, which she said had "consumed" her life.
"Heroin took over my entire life," she told Superior Court Judge Peter McShane. "People have asked me what happened and I can't remember because I was on heroin. I'm sorry for everything that happened and I accept responsibility."
Leuders' attorney, Robert Serafinowicz, later called the sentence "absolutely ridiculous," and said they would appeal the conviction. He said his client would be posting the $350,000 appeal bond within a few hours.