When Dave Nelson from the Mahoning County Dog Warden’s office on Wednesday came across William Bednar, 55 and homeless, pushing a cart filled with dead animals and two syringes, he was running into a familiar face.
Police arrested Bednar for the syringes and the dog warden’s office confiscated a dead peregrine falcon from the cart.
The next day, police filed charges against Bednar for the killing of two German shepherd puppies Jan. 30 in the West Federal Street boulevard in front of the Western Reserve Transit Authority station.
Police charged Bednar with two felony counts of cruelty to companion animals. He has two prior convictions of animal cruelty, one in 2000 and one earlier this year.
City Prosecutor Jay Macejko said Bednar was a person of interest almost immediately after the investigation started because he has a history of animal abuse, and security cameras filmed him in the area about the time of the dog killings.
Mahoning County Dog Warden Matt Ditchey said the shoe laces that were tied around the dogs’ necks and the blanket that covered them also linked the killings to Bednar, but he would not say how.
Wednesday night while he was in custody, the dog warden’s office obtained a witness statement regarding the German shepherd puppies, leading to the animal cruelty charges, Macejko said.
Bednar will be arraigned 1:30 today at Youngstown Municipal Court and may have more charges filed against him if further investigation shows the falcon was killed, Nelson said.
Macejko said because the two dogs had collars on their necks, authorities believe they were pets, though there are no reports filed for missing dogs matching their description. Because they are believed to be pets, the prosecutor was able to bump the charges to two felony counts.
Nelson saw Bednar pushing his cart through a parking lot along Oneta Street, the same street where a black Labrador retriever was found with part of its right rear leg cut off. It is also close to where authorities found a dog starved to death in the woods just south of Ohio Works Drive and where they found another dog alive and tied up near Mahoning and Lakeview avenues.
But Macejko said they have found no link between Bednar and the other dog abuse cases within the last few weeks.
“We are investigating those as individual cases,” Macejko said.
In 2000, police and the dog warden were called to Bednar’s then home at 53 Oneta St. after neighbors reported hearing the sound of crying puppies. Nelson said he arrived on scene first and said he found Bednar standing over a 55-gallon drum barbecue. In the drum, Nelson found the charred remains of puppies.
“I’ll never forget what he told me,” Nelson said. “He said, ‘Well, they eat dogs in China.’ I told him, “Well, you’re not in China.’”
Nelson said they were unable to charge Bednar with cooking the animals because a necropsy could not determine the cause of death. They did charge him with cruelty to companion animals after finding a neglected dog chained inside the home, Nelson said. He was convicted of the charge later that year and sent to North Coast Mental Facility in Cleveland.
In 2011, while living at the Phoenix House at 850 N. Meridian Road, he stole a dog from an Austintown home and chained it in the woods behind the complex and left it there. He was convicted of theft and animal cruelty on Jan. 20, 2012. He was ordered to undergo six months of mental counseling and a year of probation during which he was not to harbor any animals.
On Thursday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife picked up the falcon to determine its cause of death, Nelson said.