MEDIA RELEASE: Hanging & Stabbing of Adopted Dog: All 4 Defendants Found Guilty

MEDIA RELEASE: Hanging & Stabbing of Adopted Dog: All 4 Defendants Found Guilty

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (June 26, 2024)In Defense of Animals, the international animal protection organization, praises the sentencing of the last of four individuals who pled guilty to brutally hanging and stabbing a dog to death who had been adopted from an Indianapolis shelter just days before.

“Deron has won a measure of justice for his terrifying death,” said Doll Stanley, Senior Campaigner for In Defense of Animals. “I thank In Defense of Animals supporters who demanded strong sentencing to deter animal abuse. People who hurt animals are a danger to all of society, yet the maximum penalty for mutilating an animal in Indiana is only a Class 6 felony, the same as shoplifting. I encourage Hoosier lawmakers to show more support to Sen. J.D. Ford in his efforts to make animal torture a more serious crime in Indiana, which will protect vulnerable humans and animals.”

Clifford Massey was charged with torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal, a Level 6 Felony, and obstruction of justice. Massey received a two-year sentence, a year suspended, a year monitored house arrest, a year probation, suspened if he completes house arrest without violations, and completes a mental health evaluation with recommended treatment. He was ordered to pay $849 in court costs. 

Zech Hilton Thomsen was charged with torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal, battery against a public safety official, and obstruction of justice, all Level 6 felonies, and additionally resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor. Thomsen has a criminal history and has been charged in the past with criminal confinement, battery, strangulation, and resisting law enforcement. Thomsen will spend two and a half years incarcerated for the killing of Deron following his term of 27 years for the murder of Vincent Lovett Clifyton, Jr. in 2022.

Sierra Makin was charged with battery resulting in bodily injury to a public safety official, a Level 5 felony; obstruction of justice, a Level 6 felony, and resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor. Makin was tried earlier this year and sentenced to three years incarceration with a one-year suspended sentence. She will serve a year in prison and a year in Marion County Community Corrections and was mandated anger management.

Denita Lynn Hughes was charged with obstructing justice and sentenced to 304 days of probation and a fine of $100.

Deron’s horrifying murder shocked the nation. On July 28, 2022, Indianapolis Animal Care Services adopted the two-year-old dog to Zech Thomsen, who was accompanied by three associates. Nine days later, on August 6, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department dispatch received a report of a dog strung up by his leash and bleeding on the porch of a dwelling on the 700 block of Bosart Avenue. Reportedly, four adults were surrounding the dog. Court documents reveal that a portion of the incident was caught on a doorbell camera. 

A witness to the crime said that four adults were on the porch, and Thomsen was holding a knife while Deron was hanging. Another witness said a trash bag was put over Deron’s head until he stopped moving.

According to the probable cause affidavit, IMPD Officer Nickolas Smith arrived at the dwelling and discovered two women washing and sweeping the porch. Officer Smith stated that when he inquired about the dog, one of the women tried to distract him by pointing him to a nearby residence, saying there was no dog. Because the complaint included information that the dog was placed in a plastic bag and disposed of in a trash can, Officer Smith found Deron in one with a leash still around his neck, along with a bloody steak knife.

Officer Smith returned to the porch to prevent the women from potentially washing away evidence. Makin allegedly tried to flee inside by slamming the dwelling door. According to court documents, Officer Smith grabbed Makin by her arm, and she “struck Officer Smith in the face with her right fist,” at which point Thomsen came out and tried to keep Officer Smith from cuffing Makin. Makin then bit Officer Smith and dug her nails into him. “Officer Smith could feel a chunk of his forearm was inside her mouth and feared losing skin as the bite was tightening rapidly.” Thomsen allegedly struck a backup officer in the back of the head.

Massey had also adopted a dog, King, on the same day Thomsen adopted Deron. King went missing the day Massey was arrested, but was found and is now safe.

Over 18,000 In Defense of Animals’ supporters sent a letter to Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears seeking no plea deal and urging the judge for maximum sentencing in this violent and disturbing case.

Torture or mutilation of a vertebrate animal is a Class 6 felony, the same classification as shoplifting. Sen. J.D. Ford introduced Senate Bill 41 to impose tougher penalties for animal cruelty in Indiana, but the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee nixed it in February.


### NOTES ###

2021 Indiana Code 35-46-3-12 Torture or Mutilation of a Vertebrate Animal; Killing a Domestic Animal

(c) A person who knowingly or intentionally tortures or mutilates a vertebrate animal commits torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal, a Level 6 felony.

2017 Indiana Code 35-50-2-7. Class D felony; Level 6 felony; judgment of conviction entered as a misdemeanor:

(b) A person who commits a Level 6 felony (for a crime committed after June 30, 2014) shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of between six (6) months and two and one-half (2 1/2) years, with the advisory sentence being one (1) year. In addition, the person may be fined not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000).


Contact: Doll Stanley, (662) 809-4483,

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 40-year history of defending animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, California, and rural Mississippi.



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