UTICA, Mich. – A Macomb County man charged with torturing and killing an adopted pit bull mix and leaving the dog's body under a picnic table at a park has pleaded no contest to charges.
Gerth entered a plea of no contest on Monday morning, which is the same as a guilty plea under the law.
Officials said they followed a trail of blood from a nearby waste receptacle to the picnic table. Animal cruelty investigators said it's one of the worst cases they've ever seen.
"It was tortuous," MHS cruelty investigator Elise Ramsey said. "You see a lot of things. This was one of those that sticks with you."
Police said Gerth originally applied to adopt Sterling but was denied because of his living situation. He convinced a friend to adopt Sterling for him and moved the dog into his apartment at the end of December, according to authorities.
Gerth admitted to hitting and punching Sterling on numerous occasions as a means of discipline, police said.
“Sterling was maliciously tortured and left to die in the elements,” stated Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith. “My office is fully committed to prosecuting every animal abuse case to the fullest extent under the law.”
In December in 2018, legislation was passed and signed into law to increase the penalties associated with the abuse of animals. That law goes into effect for all crimes committed after March 28, 2019.
“Gerth was charged with most severe charge on the books at the time,” Smith said. “Thankfully, the legislature recently modified the penalty for this charge, making it a 10-year felony. Unfortunately, the change did not go into effect in time for Sterling.”
Prosecutor Smith added, “Thank you to all of the supporters who have attended the court proceedings, in addition to the hundreds who have reached out to our office in support of Sterling.”
Gerth is scheduled to be sentenced on April 23, 2019.
You can watch Local 4's previous coverage of the story in the video below.