Grosse Ile teen pleads in guinea pig’s death

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — The last of three young defendants charged in the death of a guinea pig in Grosse Ile admitted his role Tuesday.

The 17-year-old admitted to taking part during an incident last year involving members of the Grosse Ile High School lacrosse team. The admission was made during a hearing in Wayne County Juvenile Court.

The teen, who was 16 at the time, told Juvenile Referee Viola King he killed the animal, but under questioning from his attorney, David Steingold, he said he did it because he “saw the animal in pain.”

“My client is the person who ended the suffering,” Steingold told King. “My client was not the one who started (the suffering).”

As part of his plea, the charge of animal cruelty was dropped, but the charge of killing and torturing an animal will remain. The teen could have been jailed under a juvenile program until 19 if he had been found guilty of both the killing/torturing and cruelty charges.

The teen will have to do well in school, display no behavioral problems at home and perform community work at church and at the Grosse Ile animal shelter. Like his co-defendants, the teen must not have any unsupervised contact with animals not his own.

King set an April 24 court date for the teen, who is not being named because his case was handled in Juvenile Court, to update progress and possibly make a decision on whether the case will be permanently dismissed. The teen and his parents did not comment.

Last week, two other Grosse Ile teens received probation for killing the guinea pig.

Tanner Coolsaet, 18, received two years’ probation and his co-defendant Michael Roth, 17, received three years as part of a youth offenders program sentencing by Wayne County Circuit Judge David Groner.

The teens each were charged with two counts of killing/torturing an animal and conspiracy to kill/torture an animal, both felonies, for killing a guinea pig to bring them luck before a lacrosse match. The teens faced a maximum of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each count.

Groner noted the teens had no criminal records and were good students, but said he delayed the sentencing to make sure there were no “deep-seated issues” that needed to be addressed with the young defendants.

Both teens apologized and pledged to donate $1,000 each to the Michigan Humane Society.

During a preliminary examination in 33rd District Court in August, witnesses told a judge that Coolsaet and Roth said they wanted to kill the animal for luck in their next lacrosse game.

The defendants’ teammates testified Coolsaet, Roth and another player had arranged for a group of boys to meet at Grosse Ile High School around 11:30 a.m. April 30 to head over to a nearby beach.

The witnesses said a group wanted the animal to decide its own fate. The teens grouped into “live” and “kill” sides and placed the animal on a table where it crawled to the “kill” side of the table.

Roth allegedly hit the guinea pig with a small baseball bat and another teen stabbed the animal with a knife. Some of the teens, according to a witness, dipped their fingers in the animal’s blood and smeared it over their faces. Another one dipped his tongue in the dead animal’s blood.


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