"Crimes of this nature will never be tolerated!" Prosecutor Eric Smith said in a statement

By Harriet Sokmensuer
April 24, 2019 03:35 PM
Credit: Macomb County Sheriff's Office; Michigan Humane Society

A Michigan man who fatally stabbed a dog he adopted has been sentenced to prison, PEOPLE confirms.

Alex Gerth, 23, was sentenced to three to six years in prison after entering a no contest plea last month to killing/torturing an animal, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith announced in a news release obtained by PEOPLE. The sentencing guidelines for the case were two to 21 months in prison, however, due to the brutal nature of Gerth’s crime, Smith asked the judge for harsher punishment.

On Jan. 24, Sterling, a medium sized, two-year-old mixed breed dog, was found with multiple stab wounds in a Utica park. A public works employee discovered his body underneath a picnic table. There was a trail of blood from a nearby waste receptacle leading to where Sterling died.

He had been “maliciously tortured” and left in below freezing temperatures, Smith said.

“The inhumane treatment of Sterling by this defendant is unconscionable,” Smith said in a news release from January. “My office is fully committed to prosecuting this case at the fullest extent under the law. No animal deserves to have his life ended this way.”

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When Gerth originally applied to adopt Sterling he was denied because of his living situation, the news release from January states. Determined to adopt the dog, Gerth convinced a friend to adopt Sterling for him. In December, Gerth moved Sterling into his apartment and later admitted to hitting and punching the dog.

He told authorities he physically abused the dog to discipline him.

An online petition created by Sterling’s supporters garnered more than 6,000 signatures calling for Gerth to receive the harshest sentencing. Some of the dog’s supporters attended Gerth’s hearings, the Detroit Free Press reports.

In a statement to the community, Smith thanked them for their efforts.

“We commend the sentence that clearly demonstrates — crimes of this nature will never be tolerated!” Smith said. “I want to extend my appreciation to the Utica Police, Animal Control, the Humane Society, my staff and all of the animal welfare activists that have contacted us and played a critical role in seeking justice for Sterling.”

He added: “Sterling has brought great awareness to such a critical issue that troubles us as a society. As County Prosecutor, my office will continue shining a light on the need to bring all parties together to ensure no animal is abused or neglected.”