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Published: Monday, 3/7/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

2 Michigan men arraigned on dogfighting charges

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

IDA, Mich. — The woman who rents Jerry Bugg's pale yellow, two-story house on Ida-Maybee Road had left for the weekend with the understanding that her boyfriend was going to host a bachelor party for his friends.

Instead of beer, poker, and stag movies, authorities busted up a bloody duel between two champion fighting dogs in the Raisinville Township residence. Mr. Bugg, a former auto worker who fled Michigan five years after losing his job, later learned about the raid from a former neighbor's phone call.

Mr. Bugg, who now lives in Cincinnati, said reports that dogs were fighting to their death for money inside his garage left he and his wife, Barbara, feeling sick.

"I am ... shaken by all of this," he said. "My wife and I are sick. We are just devastated."

Willie Fletcher, 32, of Detroit, and James Broome, 32, of Belleville, Mich., who authorities have identified as the owners of dogs in the championship bout, were arraigned Monday in Monroe County District Court.

They and 24 others were arrested after federal agents, state police, and deputies descended on the house 2 miles north of Ida about 1:30 a.m. Sunday after getting tipped off that it was hosting a high-stakes fight.

Fletcher and Mr. Broome are each charged with one count of participating in dogfighting and attending a dog fight, felonies that carry four-year jail sentences.

Fletcher, who prosecutors say has a previous conviction for dogfighting, was ordered held in the county jail in lieu of $125,000 bond by Judge Mark Braunlich, of Monroe County District Court. Mr. Broome was ordered held in the jail in lieu of $25,000 bond.

The others arrested in connection with the raid are scheduled to appear Tuesday in District Court for arraignments. Sheriff's detectives said they are from Missouri, Indiana, Georgia, and Ohio. They are being held in the county jail without bond.

Jack Simms, chief assistant prosecutor, argued to Judge Braunlich that the "vicious, brutal, and callous" acts that allegedly occurred at the house justify the high bonds.

At the arraignment, Mr. Broome, a security guard, denied that he raised dogs for fighting. He told the judge he needed to stay out of jail to keep his job so that he could support his wife and three sons.

"I have never been in trouble before," he pleaded. "I really don't want to lose my job."

The animals allegedly owned by Fletcher and Mr. Broome were among five dogs taken from the home early Sunday.

Linda Benson, director of the sheriff's animal control unit, said one dog died in transit to the shelter and the other animal died shortly after it arrived.

Animal control officers went back to the residence about 6 p.m. Sunday when they took five more dogs that investigators apparently didn't find during the search earlier of the 6 1/2-acre property.

Officer Benson said healed scars from battles were visible on several dogs, but all of the remaining animals appear to be healthy.

"They are a little thin," she said. "They are not in any danger of dying."

Mr. Bugg, 58, said he and his wife each received texts messages Sunday from the tenant, Pamela Cole, 44, a single mother of two teenage daughters. He said she apologized for what happened and had given permission to her boyfriend to host a bachelor party at her home.

He said she told him in the text messages that she had left the Monroe area for the weekend.

The Coles have lived in the house since about September, 2009, the owner said.

Mr. Bugg said that Ms. Cole has two pets — an English bulldog and a Pomeranian — and that when he visited the home six or eight months ago, the boyfriend had a dog tied up outside the home. He could not recall the man's name.

"She and her daughters seems so nice. To me, it just seems so out of character for them. It is so unbelievable," Mr. Bugg said.

Ms. Cole said in text messages that she was too ill to respond to a reporters' questions about the incident.

After getting losing his job at a Ford Motor Co. plant in Ypsilanti, Mr. Bugg said he relocated for several years near Knoxville, Tenn., and later to Cincinnati.

Sheriff's Detective Heath Velliquette said the dogs were fighting in a ring in the attached garage when deputies, Michigan State Police, and U.S. Department of Agriculture agents entered.

Eighteen suspects were kept in the house with eight others fleeing the property. Investigators rounded up the fugitives with the assistance of the sheriff's office K-9 Team, Detective Velliquette said.

The ensuing investigation produced more than $40,000 in cash, large quantities of cocaine and marijuana, a handgun that officers said was in possession of one of the suspects, as well as the fighting ring used to stage the dog fight and a dog-training treadmill.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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