PEABODY — When a North Shore man goes on trial next month accused of killing his girlfriend’s dog, lots of animal lovers will be watching.
Everett police say Steven M. Severino, a 31-year-old Peabody native, broke the dog Coco’s jaw and there was evidence of other kinds of abuse. Following the 3-year-old Pomeranian-Yorkie-Poodle’s death last year, a Justice For Coco Facebook page was created. So far, more than 1,000 viewers have joined the cause.
Many of them plan to be at Malden District Court on Monday, Sept 9, as the Severino trial gets underway, according to Deanna Terminiello, an animal advocate.
“We are hoping dozens of people will join us to protest animal cruelty,” she said. “We are spreading the word that these animals are innocent and need a voice. It’s well known serial killers start by killing pets.”
Terminiello, who serves as director of Pawsitively Puppy Doe, said the advocacy group was founded five years ago following media reports of Radoslaw Czerkawski who was later sentenced to 10 years for torturing his 1-year-old female pit bull mix that had to be euthanized because her injuries were so severe. The dog came to be known as Puppy Doe and gained national attention from animal activists.
Barbara Aceto launched the Coco Facebook page after Severino was arraigned last fall on a charge of animal cruelty. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in state prison and up to a $5,000 fine. He has pleaded not guilty.
“Animal abusers need to be held accountable for what they’ve done,” she said. “They need more than a slap on the wrist.”
Everett police were called to 13 Hoyt St. following multiple calls from neighbors who said they heard a dog yelping and what sounded like an animal being beaten.
When police arrived, they found Danielle Cohen, the dog’s co-owner, in the backyard hysterical and in tears. Severino exited the home carrying a small black dog and placed it on the ground. Police said the animal was not moving, its tongue was covered in blood and drooped out the side of its mouth.
When police asked what happened, Cohen said she was taking a shower and Severino, her boyfriend, had just returned from a walk with Coco. The pet was unresponsive.
Severino told police he was trying to get the dog to like him, that the pooch constantly tried to bite him. They went for a walk to Sidney Shapiro Park to establish a better rapport with the animal, according to the police report.
He said while they were on the walk, the dog got loose from its harness and took off. Coco was later found at the bottom of stairs on nearby Tyler Street and Severino brought the dog back to Hoyt Street.
But neighbors told investigators they heard the dog crying in the Hoyt Street home’s yard, contradicting Severino’s account, police said.
When Cohen was told the dog was dead, she collapsed on the floor, the report said.
Severino denied harming the dog.
Michael Ciaburri, Coco’s co-owner, has been separated from Cohen since last year. The couple were married in 2011. They shared custody of the dog with each taking their pet on alternative weekends.
Ciaburri still has trouble talking about Coco without tears.
“The day it happened, Danielle called me twice,” he said. “Once to say the dog fell down the stairs, and she called back to say the dog expired.”
He still has wonderful memories of Coco, whom the couple got in 2015 when the puppy was just six weeks old.
“That first night, she slept on my chest,” he said. “She was the most harmless dog ever. If we went for a walk, she decided where we would go. If there was a breeze, she would just sit and enjoy it. I really miss her.”
Severino and Cohen could not be reached for comment.