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FREEHOLD – A couple is facing charges of animal cruelty after four German Shepard puppies in their care died due to neglect, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Daniel McDonald, 25, and Tricia Jaccoma, 24, are charged with four counts of third degree animal cruelty with respect to the deaths of four German Shepherd puppies found deceased on a property in Howell where they were temporarily residing.

The remains of two deceased German Shepherd puppies were found in a fire pit on the property in Howell on Monday, May 18, 2020.  The Howell Township Police Department and Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Law Enforcement Division, conducted an investigation, which led to the discovery of the remains of two more deceased puppies which had been buried on the property. 

The joint investigation revealed the puppies were stolen from a farm in Somerset County on or about May 12, when the puppies were only approximately three weeks old.  Investigators learned McDonald and Jaccoma were staying at the Somerset County farm prior to the time the puppies went missing and were in possession of the puppies while residing in a camper on the property in Howell.  Investigators also learned the puppies were ill, in distress, and were struggling to breathe prior to their deaths, and that the pair did not get the puppies medical attention because of the costs associated with the care. The investigation further revealed McDonald disposed of the bodies of the deceased puppies by burying two of them and tossing the other two into the fire pit on or about May 16.  A necropsy performed on the two buried puppies revealed the puppies suffered from parasites and also were severely emaciated and malnourished with “no indications of recent nutritional ingestion.” 

In addition to the animal cruelty charges for failing to provide the puppies with the necessary care, both McDonald and Jaccoma were additionally charged with multiple counts of third degree Receiving Stolen Property, for being in possession of the stolen puppies in Monmouth County.  McDonald was further charged with four counts of Hindering Apprehension of oneself, disorderly persons offenses, for disposing of the deceased puppies bodies.

The investigation further revealed McDonald was in possession of a generator reported stolen out of South Brunswick, and a John Deere front end loader reported stolen out of Monroe.   McDonald was charged with additional counts of third degree and second degree Receiving Stolen Property, respectively, for being in possession of these stolen items.  

McDonald was ordered detained at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Paul X. Escandon on June 10, 2020. 

Jaccoma is currently a fugitive.  If you have any information about her whereabouts, please contact Humane Law Enforcement Officer Michael Magliozzo of the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 732 995-0329, or Patrolwoman Heather Scherbinski of the Howell Township Police Department at 732-938-4111.

If convicted of the second-degree charge, McDonald faces a sentence of five to ten years in a New Jersey state prison.

If convicted of any of the third degree charges, they each face a sentence of three to five years in in a New Jersey state prison on each count. 

This case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the Office’s Professional Responsibility and Bias Crimes Unit, and liaison to the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Law Enforcement Division. 

McDonald is represented by Paul Zager, Esq. of Red Bank. McDonald is scheduled for a Pre-Indictment Conference on July 6, 2020.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

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