Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Arnold S. Hotz, 59 (1) killing neighbors 2 cats

Vernon, WI

Waukesha County

1994  
Arnold S. Hotz, 61 baiting, poisoning & killing 3 dogs

Vernon, WI

Waukesha County

February 10, 1996 Mukwonago, WI
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date
Felony killing 2 cats 2 red heeler ranch dogs & 1 beagle

(1) Not charged

Convicted

 

Animal lovers are sending letters to a Waukesha County judge that urge him to throw the book at a 61-year-old man accused of fatally poisoning three dogs with raw meat soaked in antifreeze.

"(I'm) asking that you throw the book at this man for animal baiting and poisoning," wrote Gloria Sanner, of Milwaukee.

"This abusive behavior must be stopped before violence involving people becomes the next step," wrote another Milwaukee woman, Margaret Gebhard.

"I urge the court to punish this man to the full extent of the law," wrote Mary Ann Schemenauer, of New Berlin.

A half-dozen letters have arrived so far for Waukesha County Circuit Judge Joseph E. Wimmer.

"I just got two more," said Kurt Schuster, who is representing the accused man, Arnold Hotz, 61, of the Town of Vernon.

The letters arrived at the beginning of May, on the eve of Hotz's jury trial, which was set for May 6. The trial date, however, was postponed to July 29.

Hotz has pleaded not guilty to six charges against him - three counts of mistreatment of animals causing death and three counts of exposing animals to poisonous substances.

Schuster said he has rejected a plea bargain offered by the district attorney's office and expects the case to go to jury trial July 29.  He said he wasn't surprised at the letter writing and believes one of the dog owners urged the activity.

"At this point, everyone thinks that Mr. Hotz did this," Schuster said. "I'm not upset that people are writing. It's a horrible thing he's accused of doing."  But some of the letters are so misinformed that Schuster said he believed the authors didn't know much about the case. Only one of the authors lives in Waukesha County, where the dogs died.

According to the criminal complaint, neighborhood dogs were attracted to Hotz's yard because he burned his garbage and threw edible meat on a scrap heap in his yard.

The complaint says sheriff's deputies found a bowl of antifreeze on Hotz's front porch and a piece of meat that had been soaked in antifreeze.

Deputies accused Hotz of providing inconsistent statements on how the antifreeze got on his porch.  Deputies say Hotz told them that he felt he was being framed by neighbors who have battled with him for years. Schuster declined to discuss his defense strategy.

He said that in 1994, his neighbors blamed him for shooting 2 cats, killing one, which he denies. He said he paid for the cats'veterinary bills just to get neighbors off his back.

Update 7/30/97:  An attorney for a man accused of fatally poisoning three dogs said that a sheriff's deputy conducted a shoddy investigation, and raised the possibility that the defendant's wife or grandson could be responsible

On the opening day of Arnold Hotz 's animal cruelty trial, the deputy who found a bowl filled with meat and antifreeze on Hotz's home patio told jurors he did not seize the bowl as evidence or check it for fingerprints.

Hotz's attorney, Kurt Schuster, told jurors that authorities rushed to judgment when the dogs' owners blamed Hotz and Hotz gave authorities conflicting stories. He questioned whether Hotz may have lied about the bowl to protect someone else, such as his wife or grandson.

Hotz, 61, is charged with three felony counts of mistreatment of an animal and three misdemeanor counts of exposing an animal to a poisonous substance. If convicted of all counts, Hotz would face a maximum sentence of up to eight years and three months behind bars.

About a half-dozen members of Citizens United for Animals, a Milwaukee-area animal rights group, sat in the courtroom, wearing yellow buttons that said "Friends of Animals." Schuster told jurors, "We won't disagree about much, except the most important thing: Did he (Hotz) put that bowl on that patio step? And did he do anything . . . to hurt those other dogs?"

The other dogs Schuster was referring to were two red-heeler, trained ranch dogs named Stripe and Gismo, who died weeks before the bowl was found on Hotz's patio on March 16, 1996. A third dog, a beagle named Vixen, was taken to a veterinary clinic March 14, 1996, after vomiting up pieces of raw meat.

Autopsies on all three dogs found that they died of antifreeze poisoning. Stripe and Gismo were owned by Hotz's next-door neighbor Jane Schuster, who is not related to Kurt Schuster, and they died in February. Vixen, owned by Jane Schuster's roommate Chris Cieszynski, was euthanized March 19, 1996, after a kidney dialysis was unsuccessful.

Deputy Alan Sill told jurors he thought Hotz was lying when he gave conflicting explanations for the meat and antifreeze. Sill testified that Hotz first told him he had been working on his car in the garage and used the bowl to catch antifreeze. But Hotz said he didn't know how the meat got into the bowl and how the bowl got on his patio.

Sill said that in a later interview, Hotz said he had spilled some antifreeze on his garage floor and used the bowl to clean it up. He said his wife asked him to dispose of some meat, which he put in the bowl, and set out to bury it in his yard but forgot it on his patio.

Kurt Schuster asked Sill whether Hotz could have been lying to protect someone else. Sill said he believed Hotz was protecting himself.

Update 9/22/97:  Sentencing for a man convicted of fatally poisoning his neighbor's dogs has been delayed to November while the man's pastor, friends and relatives are begging a judge to be lenient.

"What really happened? Three dogs died," Christ Lutheran Church Pastor Reinhart Kom wrote in a letter supporting his parishioner, Arnold Hotz.  "Let the person pay to replace the dogs, and let the person pay an appropriate, definable and acceptable fine," Kom wrote.

Hotz was convicted July 31 of three felony animal abuse charges after a jury decided he intentionally poisoned three dogs with antifreeze-soaked meat. He faces a maximum penalty of six years in prison and a $30,000 fine when he is sentenced Nov. 25.

Animals lovers have sent letters to Circuit Judge Joseph Wimmer urging him to throw the book at Hotz, saying he deserves the maximum penalty.

But new letters filling Hotz's file since his conviction plead for mercy, suggesting he receive probation or a small fine.

One letter writer recommended that Hotz be ordered to volunteer at an animal shelter; another asked Wimmer to negate the jury's finding and acquit him.

Almost all placed blame on the owner of the poisoned dogs, Jane Schuster, saying she broke a local leash ordinance by allowing her dogs to run free and roam into Hotz's yard.

One Hotz supporter alleged Schuster and another key trial witness against Hotz, William Bruss, were "vindictive neighbors" who ganged up on and victimized Hotz.

"What happened to Mr. Hotz is a tragedy," supporter Richard Obermann wrote. "We feel Mr. Hotz deserves the lightest sentence possible."  "To speak in terms of a prison sentence and/or thousands of dollars in fines, where is the justification?" Pastor Kom wrote. "There is so much valid and hurtful crime against people (like the unborn) that seems to go unpunished!

"God has appointed you, Judge Wimmer . . . to hand down a fair and just decision. Just as God will judge my work as pastor someday, so He will judge your work as judge."

Many of the nearly one dozen letter writers related stories of how Hotz had treated their dogs humanely and with compassion. One noted that as a young boy, Hotz had cared for and loved a pony.  "He is not a person who is mean to animals," neighbor Elizabeth Wessner wrote. She added: "Please don't waste my tax dollars by putting him in jail, not even for one day."

Supporters described Hotz as a God-fearing, churchgoing man with no past troubles who at worst accidentally killed Schuster's dogs when he left a bowl containing antifreeze and hamburger meat on his patio.

Hotz appeared in court to ask Wimmer whether he could have a new lawyer and whether his sentencing could be rescheduled to allow his new attorney time to prepare. Wimmer granted both requests. Hotz's sentencing was set for Nov. 25.

Update 12/11/97:  A state senator who has been nominated for a federal judgeship denies he tried to steal a petition that sought a tough sentence for a man he represented.

Sen. Lynn Adelman, D-town of Waterford, is under investigation for the alleged incident.

Adelman, who maintains a private law practice, was recently hired to represent Hotz at his sentencing April 1 for animal abuse.

The owner of two dogs that Hotz was found to have poisoned complained to Big Bend police that Adelman tried to steal a petition that she put on the counter of a drugstore.

Adelman said that he became upset when he saw the petition because it asked people who do not know Hotz to condemn him.  "I never, never took it" out of the store, Adelman said.  "I took it away from the counter. I wanted to read it. I went to the bathroom. When I read the petition, I came back and returned it."

Adelman himself submitted a petition with nearly 400 supporters calling for a judge to spare Hotz from jail. A subsequent petition with about 90 signatures has been filed asking the judge to impose the maximum term of six years in prison.

Big Bend police officer Jon Kopecky confirmed that he is investigating the incident, but declined to give details.

Update 1/20/98:  U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman gave the strong appearance that he intended to steal from a Big Bend store a petition denouncing one of his clients, but he won't be cited because there is no local ordinance for attempted theft, the village's attorney said.  "The conduct arguably would have been an attempted theft," said Village Attorney John Schober.   "Big Bend has a theft ordinance, but no attempted theft ordinance. We can't prosecute for attempted theft."

Adelman was accused of attempting to take the petition from a counter at Jerome Drugs, W230-S8715 Clark Road, Big Bend, on Dec. 7.

A store clerk noticed that the petition was missing from the counter and demanded that Adelman return it.  He removed the folded document from his pocket and handed it over to the clerk.

"It would be reasonable to conclude that the petition would have been removed from the store but for Mr. Adelman being confronted by the store clerk," Schober wrote in a letter to police Chief Robert Sweetman.

"We believe that a very strong argument could be made that Adelman intended to remove the petition from the store for the following reasons: 1) the petition was not so lengthy as to have to be removed from the counter area in order to be read, and 2) the petition, which was adverse to Mr. Adelman's client, was concealed at the time the clerk asked for its return."

Because the former Democratic state senator from the Town of Waterford was recently sworn in as a federal judge, Adelman now is precluded from representing Hotz. 

Adelman said he was relieved by Schober's decision.  "I'm glad it's over," he said. "I think it's the right decision. I never intended or attempted to take the thing.  I also have acknowledged I should have never picked it up at all.  If any further statements of apology are necessary, I freely make them."

But Jane Schuster-Kartes, who circulated the petition and whose dogs were poisoned by Adelman's former client, was unhappy with the outcome.  "I think it stinks," she said.  "I think that any other person who wasn't a state senator would be charged.  I think anybody who makes the law should abide by the law."

Schober said Adelman would have been prosecuted for theft if he had left the store with the petition.  "We do not believe that a theft would have been completed until Adelman had exited the store," Schober wrote to Sweetman.   But because there is no attempted theft ordinance, no municipal citation could be issued, Schober said, adding that most villages don't have ordinances for attempted crimes.

Schober also wrote that it would be reasonable to conclude that Adelman's actions "sought to hinder" the free speech rights of those circulating the petition, but the actions did not constitute a violation of the Big Bend Municipal Code.

It took more than six weeks for the case to be resolved.  Initially, Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher reviewed reports on the matter, later calling it an instance of "first-degree stupidity."  Adelman's conduct as depicted in the report did not rise to the "level of criminal prosecution," Bucher concluded.

In mid-December, he returned the case to Big Bend for possible local prosecution.   Schober said he took a month to review the case.  "We did spend more time reviewing the matter because of the high-profile nature of the case," he said.  "We left no rock unturned.

Update 2/11/98:  Hotz was sued by the dog owners, who accused him of defaming them and causing them emotional distress.  Dog owners Jane Schuster-Kartes and Christine Fabry filed a civil lawsuit, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Hotz.

Schuster-Kartes and Fabry said they filed the lawsuit not for money but to "send a message" to animals abusers that "there are consequences for their actions."  "He's really hurt our lives," alleged Schuster-Kartes. She also alleged that Hotz's supporters have harassed her. "I'm tired of being bad-mouthed to everyone and laughed at."

Said Fabry, who is a police officer in Whitewater: "(We filed the lawsuit) because of his attitude that he was better than the law."

But Hotz's attorney in the criminal case, Elizabeth Adelman, who has taken over the job of defense lawyer from her husband, Lynn Adelman, now a federal judge, that she believed Schuster-Kartes was disingenuous and was interested in money.  "She wants to ruin him," Adelman alleged. "(Hotz) knows he made a mistake. He's remorseful."  Adelman said that Hotz has already voluntarily paid the women $2,000 and is performing community service in a bird-feeding job.

According to the lawsuit filed:  The women alleged that Hotz admitted previously to killing 2 of Schuster-Kartes' cats in 1994.  He has paid $1,200 for veterinary bills and was not charged with any crime. However, they called his alleged conduct with the cats and dogs "extreme and outrageous."

The lawsuit also alleges that Hotz or his supporters circulated a defamatory petition in August that said the dead dogs were not owned by the women and were "road kill."

Schuster-Kartes said that she had not seen that petition but was told about its contents by a neighbor who was asked to sign it.

Update 4/2/98:  A judge sent Hotz to jail for nine months for deliberating baiting and fatally poisoning three of his neighbors' dogs by leaving antifreeze-soaked meat on his back porch.

In a case that has pitted neighbor against neighbor and shook the rural Town of Vernon, Arnold Hotz was alternately described in court as a "hostile, disturbed" animal killer and as a God-fearing, loving grandfather and church elder.

"I was responsible for their deaths," a remorseful Hotz told a judge, the dog owners and a courtroom packed with an estimated 70 Hotz supporters.   "They died in pain, and I'm very sorry," he said to the two dog owners, Jane Schuster-Kartes and Christine Fabry.  "I'd like to be a good neighbor, and I hope in time we can get along," Hotz told the women.

But they showed little forgiveness and said they are upset that Hotz has been lying to his supporters by saying he accidentally killed the dogs, a beagle named Vixen and two red-heeler ranch dogs named Stripe and Gizmo.

After a jury found Hotz guilty on July 31 of three felony animal abuse charges for intentionally killing the dogs, Hotz's wife, Jeanette Hotz, told a state corrections official who prepared a sentencing report that her husband had deliberated killed the dogs for straying onto his land and disturbing his birds.  "He told me he deliberately did it," Waukesha Circuit Judge Joseph Wimmer quoted Jeanette Hotz as saying as he read from the state's report.  "I blame his father," Jeanette Hotz was quoted as saying. Hotz's father routinely shot, drowned or killed animals he considered nuisances, she said.

Wimmer called the case a "clash of cultures." Hotz grew up on a farm in a time before the rights of animals took on greater importance and animal cruelty laws stiffened, the judge said.

But Wimmer also noted that a year before the dog deaths, Hotz was investigated by deputies after Schuster-Kartes accused him of killing 2 of her cats by kicking one and shooting another.  Deputies did not seek prosecution after Hotz denied killing the cats, but he agreed to pay Schuster-Kartes about $1,200 in veterinary bills. Hotz has since admitted to killing the cats.

"What you did was obviously wrong and was extremely cruel," Wimmer said. "I can understand your frustration at having animals on your property. However, that did not give you the right to destroy these animals."

"It's time for healing," Hotz's attorney, Elizabeth Adelman, the former senator's wife, told the judge.  "Sending Arnold Hotz to jail is not going to heal the wounds."

Four members of a small Milwaukee animal rights group, called Citizens United for Animals, were present in the courtroom.

Hotz's pastor praised his character, as did his work supervisor, neighbors and a spokesman from the Waukesha Salvation Army where Hotz has been volunteering. They all said jail would be excessive, unfair punishment.

The judge imposed but stayed the maximum six-year prison term and instead placed Hotz on probation for 15 years. Hotz will go to prison only if he violates his probation. The judge ordered the nine-month jail term and required Hotz to perform 100 hours of community service.

Hotz also must pay $3,000 to the local humane society -- $1,000 for each dog that died -- attend anger management counseling and pay restitution estimated at $5,638.

"Justice was served," said Schuster-Kartes, who, with Fabry, has a civil lawsuit pending against Hotz.

Update 10/13/00:  Two women said they will appeal a jury's award of $7,500 to punish Hotz who killed their pet dogs and a cat.  "It was nowhere near what we were looking for, none whatsoever," said Chris Fabry.

Fabry, a Waukesha County Sheriff's deputy, lived with Jane Schuster-Kartes at the time.

Hotz also shot one of Schuster-Kartes' cats, a new mother named Cinder, paralyzing the cat in the back and leading to its death in 1994.

Hotz left court without comment Johnson said the $7,500 award was a significant penalty for Hotz, but considerably less than Hotz offered to settle the case earlier this week. During a three-day civil trial this week, Judge Kathryn Foster ruled that the women could not receive damages for the emotional distress caused by the loss of the animals. That left a jury to decide punitive damages against Hotz.

Schuster-Kartes' attorney, Lisa Rowe, sought $100,000 from Hotz, as a means to punish him for his conduct and deter others from similar actions. She said Hotz denied all along that he shot the cat or killed the dogs. She added that Schuster-Kartes accused Hotz of spraying pesticide along his lot line, which blew Schuster-Kartes' way on a windy day, causing her and some of her horses to become ill.

"Mr.Hotz has a terrible hobby. He likes to kill animals. His violent tendencies veer toward evil itself," Rowe said. "Mr. Hotz hasn't learned his lesson and the only way we can do that now is hit him where it hurts — in his pocketbook. We need to award a verdict high enough to get his attention. This has got to stop."

Johnson said Hotz did not lure the animals to his yard as Rowe claimed. They were attracted to a compost pile and the cats were after birds that used a long-standing birdhouse on his land, Johnson said. He said Rowe was engaging in "character assassination," distorting facts and exaggerating actions to paint a picture of animal cruelty.

Schuster-Kartes said she has had other problems with Hotz, as well as other neighbors who have sued her in civil court over a horse-boarding business.  The neighbors alleged in a lawsuit last year that Schuster-Kartes' horse barns were a source of manure and a violation of zoning codes, constituting a nuisance. Schuster-Kartes will appear in Foster's court on that matter later this month.

Like Fabry, Schuster-Kartes said she was disappointed in the jury's decision.  "They should've lived next to Hotz for six years and put up with the daily trials and tribulations," she said.

Reference:

Waukesha Freeman Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Capital Times