Jefferson woman indicted in puppy drowning case

West Milford. The Jefferson woman accused of drowning a 10-week-old puppy in a township lake last April was indicted by a Passaic County grand jury Feb. 20, officials said. She will be arraigned in Paterson on one count of animal cruelty March 15 and could face up to three years in state prison.

03 Mar 2020 | 02:08

Jefferson resident Tonya Fea, 48, is facing up to three years in state prison after being indicted by a Passaic County grand jury Feb. 20 in connection with the drowning of a 10-week-old Golden Retriever puppy in a pond on Bonter Road last April.

Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office Spokesman Seth Galkin said a grand jury returned an indictment with one charge of animal cruelty in the third degree against Fea on Feb. 20.

If convicted, Fea could face a range of sentences from probation up to three years in state prison, Galkin said.

She is scheduled to be arraigned on the charge in Passaic County Superior Court in Paterson on March 16, he said.

A 10-week-old golden retriever puppy was discovered submerged in a cage in Greenwood Pond off Bonter Road in West Milford on April 30, 2019.

According to police, the puppy was discovered in a metal crate with a crystal vase and wee-wee pads on the pond’s edge by a local rescue shelter worker.

The corpse was taken to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory for a necropsy which determined it died as a result of drowning, police said.

Fea was charged following an investigation by county and township police.

A graphic Facebook post from the Last Resort Rescue of Hewitt later on April 30, said that one of the officers of that organization discovered the crate on the edge of the pond.

“One of our rescue officers at The Last Resort Rescue noticed a crate at the edge of the pond on Bonter Road on the Oak Ridge side of town today with a puppy in it,” last April's post said. “The puppy was dead and ice cold, soaked inside the crate, lakebed vegetation hanging on the crate, with a crystal vase and wee wee pads stuck to the side of her head with a small amount of blood on them.”

The story garnered national and international attention after the rescue worker posted graphic images of the puppy on social media.

Fea was charged in the case a week later and waived her initial court appearance in favor of a grand jury hearing.

According to the one-page indictment, Fea “did purposely, knowingly or recklessly torment or torture a living animal or creature, namely a golden retriever puppy, and/or cause bodily injury to said living animal or creature by failing to provide said living animal or creature with necessary care as the owner or as a person charged with the care of the living animal or creature, and the animal or creature died as a result of either said violation.”

Fea is being represented by Paterson attorney Richard Baldi of Baldi & Marotta.

Baldi could not be reached for comment Tuesday.