By Marjorie Nesin
---- — The 27-year-old Gloucester man charged with gutting his pet pit bull after the dog ingested heroin, will stand trial in front of a Salem Superior Court judge, after his case was moved from Gloucester District Court to the higher court Thursday.
While John “Jack” Dugan’s arraignment has yet to be scheduled, a grand jury indicted him on four counts of animal cruelty and one count of heroin possession with intent to distribute.
The three additional counts of animal cruelty and the heroin charge resulted from an investigation that has been ongoing since his initial arrest in the first week of December, Carrie Kimball Monahan said Thursday, speaking for the office of Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
“There were some other acts involving Xena, the dog that died, and then there was one act on the other dog,” Monahan said. “That will all be explained in the arraignment.”
People following the case had frequently questioned why Dugan had not initially been charged with heroin possession, when he faced just a single count of animal cruelty in Gloucester District Court.
Dugan had admitted to police that Xena ingested heroin, which had been left on a counter top in his Prospect Street apartment. He told police he had later cut the dog open because she bloated after overdosing, but a veterinarian whom police consulted said that claim was not plausible.
A witness who police had interviewed in the case told officers that, about a week prior to a woman discovering Xena’s body in the woods off Sadler Street — the find that consequently led to Dugan’s arrest — Dugan had allowed Xena to nearly choke to death when the dog became entangled in exercise equipment. Another pit bull, named Damian, was taken from the home when police arrested Dugan.
Dugan remains held in Middleton Jail on $50,000 bail as he awaits arraignment. Though he was released from jail in late January, a March incident during which police discovered Dugan in a Captain’s Lodge motel room with drugs and alcohol led to his rearrest for breaking the terms of his probation, which called for him to remain sober of alcohol and illegal drugs.
Dugan told police he had “snorted” Percocet pills, an opiate and narcotic, and consumed a bottle of Jameson whiskey in the hotel room. Police also found a hand-made urine masking device, which would be used for falsifying a urine drug test.
Dugan’s case has been continued many times in Gloucester District Court, as those involved waited on the case’s status in the higher court.
Dugan’s case has concurrent jurisdiction, which means it could have been appropriately tried in either district or superior court, but the move to superior court can mean a harsher sentence if Dugan is found guilty.
While any crime tried in district court can bring a sentence of up to 2 and 1/2 years in a county house of correction, a Superior Court judge has the flexibility to sentence a defendant to up to a life sentence in a state prison.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.