STOW, OH -- A family pet was found shot to death in a neighbor's backyard and now the dog's owners are demanding justice.
Kristina and Raymond Cope love dogs so much, they volunteer with a local animal rescue organization and are currently fostering three small puppies while grieving the loss of their 7-year-old dog, Merlin.
“This is helping my heart some, but there’s a hole in it where Merlin was, for sure,” said Kristina Cope.
The couple adopted Merlin when he was just around 1 to 2 years old and they immediately fell in love with his zany personality.
But July 27, Merlin was killed not far from the Cope's house.
While Raymond was carrying in groceries, Merlin, who is usually in a fenced in backyard, had slipped out a different door and was running around the neighborhood.
“My grandson and I spotted him here and there, but he wouldn’t come,” said Raymond.
Raymond said Merlin did this maybe once or twice a year, but always returned home or stayed in the adjoining yards until his owners caught him. It was almost like a game.
But that afternoon, something felt different to the family. They say they just couldn’t find Merlin.
Since their next-door neighbor on Klein Avenue has animal traps on his property, the Copes had their daughter look there next.
“So she went over and for 10 minutes. All I heard was a blood-curdling scream,” said Kristina.
They called the police and according to a police report: “Merlin was found dead in the neighbor’s yard, shot and killed by a pellet gun.”
Initially, the next-door neighbor, who owns the property where Merlin was found dead, was charged and a pellet gun was confiscated from his home. But now, those charges have been dropped because another neighbor, who lives behind the Copes on a different street, has come forward and confessed.
Police are investigating, but no charges have been filed yet.
“It’s just not possible,” said Raymond.
The Copes say the story just doesn’t make sense. They say their veterinarian told them the pellet entered Merlin’s hind quarters, severing 2 major blood vessels, stopping him right where he stood.
“The vet said it killed him instantly,” said Raymond.
Now, while police continue their investigation, Merlin’s body is being sent to veterinarians at The Ohio State University for an autopsy to retrieve the pellet and hopefully confirm the shooter.
In the meantime while the Copes wait for answers and to say a proper goodbye to Merlin, they will continue caring for the foster puppies.
“We both have the same terrible, terrible pain," Kristina said.
“We will have justice. If it’s the last thing I ever do, I’ll get justice,” said Raymond.