Suspect not officially named pending charges, but rescue networks finger “Heidi Pibble.”
FAIRFIELD, Connecticut––No arrests had been made and no charges brought, as of November 18, 2018, four days after Fairfield, Connecticut police found the skeletonized remains of five caged dogs in a home rented by one of the most prominent pit bull advocates in the state.
Police told media, however, that warrants were being prepared for the arrest of the suspect, said to have been the only person known to have recently lived at the address, 37 Prince Street in Fairfield.
Acquaintances name Heidi Lueders, 31
The identity of the suspect was not officially disclosed pending her arrest.
Many social media comments, however, posted since November 15, 2018 by individuals claiming knowledge of the case, identified the suspect as Heidi Lueders, 31, nicknamed “Heidi Pibble,” president of Bully Breed Rescue of Connecticut and owner/operator of Square 1 K9 Behavior LLC.
The postings variously defended and damned Lueders.
One person described Lueders as having “dedicated her life to saving pitties,” adding “She wld die b4 letting this happen to her babies!”
Other posters pointed out the many days that the dead dogs, believed to all have been pit bulls, would have suffered before succumbing to thirst and starvation, and the many more weeks that must have elapsed for decomposition to have reached such an advanced stage.
Landlord found remains
Reported Luther Turmelle of the Danbury News Times, “The remains were discovered after the landlord went into the home with a plumber to see whether water pipes there were frozen, Fairfield police Lieutenant Robert Kalamaras said.
“After seeing the carcass of one dog, the landlord called police, and they obtained a search warrant to enter the building.”
“The remains, for the most part, were just bones,” Kalamaras told media.
“The conditions inside the home were deplorable, with dog feces throughout the entire house. The smell inside the place was pretty bad because of that and the state of decomposition of the animals’ bodies.”
Added Turmelle, “The landlord told police that her tenant hasn’t been living in the home for a while, according to Kalamaras.”
Confirmed Chris Antolini, Bully Breed Rescue vice president at least since 2014, in a November 18, 2018 Facebook posting, “On Thursday, November 15th, 2018, Bully Breed Rescue, Inc. members and volunteers saw a report from local news outlets of a animal cruelty investigation on Prince Street in Fairfield, Connecticut. After recognizing the address we all immediately began cooperating with local police and detectives. It is with great sadness that we confirm all five dogs on Prince Street were dogs of Bully Breed Rescue, Inc. under the care of the President Heidi Lueders. Over the last seven months Ms. Lueders had previously communicated to members and volunteers that she had sent four of these dogs to a sanctuary and the fifth dog was in a foster which she was monitoring. None of these dogs were known to be within the residence of Prince Street. At this time, all information we have has been provided to the police.”
Bully Breed Rescue founded by lawyer
Lueders, claiming to have become involved in pit bull rescue in 2007, at age 18, had been subject of many “puff pieces” by Connecticut media.
Her nonprofit organization, Bully Breed Rescue, was founded and incorporated in 2005 by attorney Benedicta McGrath, of New Canaan, Connecticut.
McGrath in October 2009 “told police her bulldog broke away from a prong collar to go after a 43-year-old victim’s two small dogs” at the Spencer’s Run off leash facility in Waveny Park, New Canaan,” according to the web site Craven Desires.
“The victim’s middle, ring, and pointer fingers were then bitten when she went to rescue her pets. One of the victim’s dogs also sustained a bite to the chest,” Craven Desires continued.
“McGrath was fined $75 for animal nuisance. Her bulldog was quarantined for observation,” the Craven Desires report finished.
Remaining president of Bully Breed Rescue Inc. until 2013, according to her LinkedIn page, McGrath eventually turned the organization over to Lueders, whose mother, Peggy Anderson Lueders, 65, of New Canaan, also joined the Bully Breed Rescue Inc. board of directors. Peggy Anderson Lueders has been listed ever since as board secretary.
McGrath, ironically, commented on Facebook in response to an alleged rescue failure case in Los Angeles that resulted in the death of one dog, with no criminal charges filed against anyone, “This is sickening, and both of these women [the suspects who were not charged] should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, both for animal abuse, neglect and abandonment as well as for fraudulently taking donations that were raised from the public to save this poor dog.”
$62,500 to $86,600 income
Under Heidi Lueders, Bully Breed Rescue claimed to have rehomed 75 pit bulls in 2010, according to a September 2011 profile by Melvin Mason of the New Canaan Mail.
By February 2013, wrote Hartford Courant freelance Bethe Dufresne, “by her [Lueders] count she and other volunteers have helped rescue and place more than 300 pit bulls.”
IRS Form 990 filings show that from 2011 through 2016, Bully Breed Rescue Inc. had annual income ranging from more than $62,500 to as much as $86,600.
No filing is available yet for 2017.
Punctured tires with pocket knife
But Heidi Lueders in 2015 twice made local news for activities other than just pushing pit bulls.
Lueders in April 2015 was reportedly charged in Stamford, Connecticut for disorderly conduct and criminal mischief for her part in a fight with the ex-wife of her boyfriend, Eric Stahl, then 38.
Stahl, who had at least two prior arrests for comparable alleged offenses, was charged with criminal mischief, conspiracy to commit strangulation and breach of peace.
Lueders admitted to puncturing two tires with a pocket knife in the incident precipitating the fight, according to the arrest affidavit.
In August 2015, wrote New Canaan News reporter Martin B. Cassidy, Lueders “was charged with third-degree assault, disorderly conduct and second-degree reckless endangerment, and Melanie Numa, 19,” a Norwalk veterinary technician, “was charged with disorderly conduct, according to New Canaan Police Lieutenant Jason Ferraro.
“Police were called by Lueders and Numa,” Cassidy explained, “who reported being assaulted and robbed,” but “After [police] investigating, it was determined that Lueders and Numa were the aggressors, confronting the victim about money that was owed, Ferraro said.
Pit bull bit victim
Continued Cassidy, “During the incident Numa attacked the woman, Ferraro said. When the woman’s 25-year-old boyfriend came to her defense, Lueders allegedly grabbed him by the neck with both hands, Ferraro said. “At some point, a 70-pound pit bull owned by Lueders was let out of a car and bit the 22-year-old Norwalk woman’s leg, Ferraro said. The boyfriend of the woman gave Lueders and Numa the $100, Ferraro said.”
Lueders told Cassidy that she was no longer president of Bully Breed Rescue Inc., but IRS Form 990 lists her as having been continuously president at least from 2014 through 2015.