DONA ANA COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) - A Rio Rancho veterinarian is at the center ofNew Mexico's only crime-scene investigation team dedicated solelyto fighting crimes against animals and putting animal abusersbehind bars.
The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department established theteam in 2007, after a series of large-scale investigations.
"We had some unique cases happen here in Doña AnaCounty,” said criminal investigator Robyn Gojkovich, whoheads the animal CSI team. "This is new water we’re treadingon."
Department officials decided to expand their focus on crimesagainst animals with additional manpower and resources that are nowin high demand across the state. Among their tools is a full-scale,mobile crime lab that also acts as an animal hospital on wheels.The full-size RV is outfitted to accommodate dozens of animals atonce.
"If an animal ends up either being euthanized or is dead onscene, we will do a forensic autopsy. In the animal world,it’s called a forensic necropsy," said Dr. Patricia Feeser,one of just a handful of forensic U.S. veterinarians routinelyworking animal cruelty cases in conjunction with law enforcement."Every single animal that I evaluate I will do a full medicalrecord on. I do medical photographs. Those photographs have to belabeled as good as any CSI on a human case."
Dr. Feeser was recently called to assist Bernalillo Countydetectives in a case involving a man suspected of using hisneighbors' small dogs as bait for his fighting pit bull. One of thealleged victims, a miniature pinscher, was found bleeding anddragging itself down the street in the suspect’s southeastAlbuquerque neighborhood. Feeser performed a forensic necropsyinside her Rio Rancho office.
"There was extensive damage underneath the skin that you couldnot see just from looking," Dr. Feeser said.
The investigation showed the small dog died after a fight with alarger dog, Feeser said. Her findings allowed detectives to moveforward with the investigation and arrest the suspect –Richard Jojola, 18.
"We are getting called for agency assistance all throughout thestate," Feeser said.
The work of the animal CSI team has certainly proved effectivein Doña Ana County, according to criminal investigator RobynGojkovich. The team’s investigations range from severehoarding cases, to animal abuse, to dog fighting and cockfightingoperations.
"I can go back and compare our cases in 2007, 2008, to the casesthat we work now and they’re a lot better," said Gojkovich."They’re more efficient."
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