Watch CBS News

Hunter who killed and skinned a Connecticut family's pet dogs claims he thought they were coyotes

Expert says coyote population not increasing, despite more sightings
Expert says coyote population not increasing, despite more sightings 02:14

A hunter who told authorities he killed and skinned what he thought were two coyotes, but later discovered they were a Connecticut family's pet German shepherds, has been criminally charged.

During a hearing in Danbury Superior Court on Wednesday that drew dozens of people including the dogs' owners and animal rights advocates, Michael Konschak, 61, of Carmel, New York, said he was ashamed of what he did.

"Please know that it was never my intent that morning to harm the victims' pets," he said.

Photos of the Caviola family dogs Cimo, right, and Lieben, left.

Police with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection arrested Konschak in February on charges including tampering with evidence, forgery, interfering with a law enforcement officer and hunting-related violations.

Animal rights advocates have urged authorities to add animal cruelty charges. Danbury State's Attorney David Applegate said the case is still being investigated and that more charges are possible.

Konschak, whose lawyer called the dogs' deaths an accident, applied for a special probation program that could have resulted in the charges being erased, but a judge rejected that request Wednesday.

Erin Caviola, of Ridgefield, said she and her family searched for their dogs for weeks and posted flyers after they went missing, and that they are heartbroken about what happened to them. She said the dogs' heads were removed and remain missing.

"We live with the emotional pain as we think about what they felt in their final moments lying beside each other dying," she said in her victim impact statement. "They loved each other so much, to picture that is heartbreaking."

In an arrest warrant affidavit, police said Konschak killed the dogs with a crossbow on Nov. 18 after they escaped from a Ridgefield family's yard. The family said the dogs - Lieben, a female, and Cimo, a male, both 10 years old - got out because a fence was damaged, possibly by a bear.

Konschak was hunting deer in nearby property and said he killed what he thought were two coyotes, the affidavit said. His lawyer, Brian Romano, said Konschak skinned the animals for their pelts. The hunting and trapping of coyotes is legal in Connecticut.

But Applegate, the prosecutor, alleged there were inconsistencies in Konschak's story and questioned how Konschak could not see that the animals were dogs before skinning them.

Konschak is due back in court next month.

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, "regulated hunting and trapping may be used to remove problem coyotes in areas where it is safe and legal to do so."

Caviola started a petition, claiming that Konschak "forged permission to be hunting on private property in this area" since he is a New York resident.

"Their murder, skinning, and beheading has taken a very large emotional toll on our family," she said in her victim impact statement. "The violence of Cimo and Lieben's death and mutilation has caused unimaginable trauma, suffering, exhaustion and has left a black cloud over our usually happy and loving family."

Hunters have claimed to mistake dogs and coyotes before.  In 2017, a New Jersey hunter who killed a one-year-old Alaskan shepherd with a bow and arrow said he thought the pet was a coyote.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.