Nevada County judge finds enough evidence to advance animal cruelty case toward trial
Gene Rouse covered his eyes at one point as he testified Thursday in the animal cruelty case of William Didomizio.
Rouse said he lived with Didomizio, 70, for several months last year. Rouse had a marijuana grow at the Rough and Ready home, and early one September morning he needed some gloves while trimming.
Didomizio kept items like gloves in his room. Rouse said he had no problem entering the bedroom to grab them.
That’s when Rouse said he saw Didomizio holding a sex toy as he lay on the bed with his black Labrador, Baby Girl.
“He just gave me a blank stare,” Rouse said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was traumatized.”
Prosecutors called Rouse to testify in Nevada County Superior Court for Didomizio’s preliminary hearing. Authorities have said Didomizio, previously convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child 14 to 15 years old, faces a felony charge of failure to register his address with authorities and misdemeanor animal cruelty. He’s pleaded not guilty.
Judge B. Scott Thomsen found enough evidence to advance the case, though he noted the amount needed for the preliminary hearing is much less than at trial.
“In fact, it is substantially less,” he added.
Thomsen emphasized that the animal cruelty case would remain a misdemeanor, despite the prosecutor’s attempt to raise it to a felony.
Testifying in the case, Rouse said he and Didomizio spoke rarely. Weeks after the incident they got into a fight. Rouse’s son then showed his father information about Didomizio’s previous conviction.
At times Baby Girl would lick Rouse, and he’d get rashes. He later determined they were from stress, and he chose to report the allegation in early November, Rouse said.
“It was messing with me,” he added. “Now I can’t be around bigger dogs at all.”
Defense attorney Michael Rooney, who represents Didomizio, questioned whether Rouse saw his client use a sex toy on the dog. Rouse said he didn’t see the act, but knows it occurred.
“I saw him laying on the bed on his side right next to the dog with her legs up,” Rouse testified, adding that Didomizio held a sex toy in his hand. “I don’t know what else to say.”
Harry Bennigson, an investigator working with Rooney, testified that he spoke with Rouse during his own investigation. Rouse gave conflicting statements in his interview, leading Bennigson to question his truthfulness.
According to Bennigson, Rouse initially said he saw Didomizio perform an act on the dog. However, Rouse told the investigator he didn’t.
“He just said he thought it happened,” Bennigson said.
Additionally, Rouse gave conflicting statements about when Didomizio placed a lock on his bedroom door and when Rouse learned about Didomizio’s criminal history.
Stefanie Geckler, a Nevada County Animal Control officer, testified she noticed Baby Girl had no hair around her tail when he was seized after Rouse’s report. A month later Geckler was told the dog had no signs of trauma. Additionally, it had no skin condition.
Dr. Tom Strolle, a veterinarian who’s treated Baby Girl, called Didomizio a conscientious pet owner. He first noticed hair loss on Baby Girl in December 2015, saying it’s generally caused by allergies.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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