Victory! A Measure of Justice for Dog Hanged & Stabbed Days After Adoption

Victory! A Measure of Justice for Dog Hanged & Stabbed Days After Adoption

Updated with Clifford Massey’s sentence on Tuesday, July 16, 2024.

Today, years after a horrifying and brutal crime lethally perpetuated on a joyous and loving dog, we praise the sentencing of one of four individuals most responsible for the crime who pled guilty to brutally hanging and stabbing the dog to death who had been adopted from an Indianapolis shelter just days before.

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.

One 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.” Not to be outdone by Makin, Thomsen allegedly struck a backup officer in the back of the head. The other two were handcuffed, released, then arrested days later.

Massey had also adopted a dog, King, on the same day that 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. Here’s how the sentencing played out.

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 Clifton, Jr. in 2022, which he committed less than a month before killing Deron.

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.

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, suspended 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.

“Deron has won a measure of justice for his terrifying death. 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. 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 other animals.”

- Doll Stanley, Senior Campaigner for In Defense of Animals

Torture or mutilation of a vertebrate animal is only a Class 6 felony, the same minor 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.

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