Mineola Couple Allegedly Murder Two Puppies, Injure Third

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A Mineola couple has been accused of doing the unthinkable and something downright vile.

Ellie Knoller and Jessica Kuncman have been charged and face prison time for animal cruelty. (Photos courtesy of Nassau County District Attorney)

Last week, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) announced at a press conference in Mineola, that Ellie Knoller was arraigned on grand jury indictment charges for allegedly killing two puppies just days after obtaining them and nearly killing a third puppy. His wife, Jessica Kuncman, has also been charged for permitting the unjustifiable suffering of the third puppy.

The killings and injuries of the three puppies, Cooper, Tucker and Bella spanned over a three-week period this past February.

“On Feb. 8, 2019, the defendants, a Mineola couple, adopted a shepherd mix puppy from the North Shore Animal League,” said Singas. “Nine days later, on Feb. 17, that animal named Tucker was dead. We allege that Tucker died because of injuries sustained from blunt force trauma, which caused his kidney to swell. Tucker’s kidney ruptured and he suffered a hemoabdomen. This young healthy puppy succumbed to catastrophic bleeding from internal injuries.”

District Attorney Madeline Singas gives Bella a hug.

The next day on Feb. 18, Knoller and his wife purchased a second puppy from a breeder in Pennsylvania. Just two days after on Feb. 20, the Goldendoodle puppy, who was named Cooper, was taken to a veterinarian clinic in Garden City in cardiac and respiratory arrest, and then died. Upon further examination, the vet determined that Cooper suffered a lacerated liver. Just like Tucker, Cooper bled to death internally due to injuries sustained from blunt force trauma.

“Three days after Cooper died on Feb. 23, we allege that Knoller returned to the same breeder in Pennsylvania and claimed that he was sold a sick dog, and demanded that he be given another,” explained Singas. “That dog is Bella, who is here with us today. She is [Cooper’s] sister. They are born of the same litter.”

Just four days after picking Bella up from the breeder on Feb. 27, Knoller and his wife brought Bella, who at the time was about 11 weeks old, to an emergency veterinary hospital in Westbury in critical condition. The doctors examined Bella and determined that she suffered from multiple fractured ribs on both sides of her body, bruising of her lungs, hemorrhaging of both of her eyes, which is bleeding behind the eyes, and a broken right leg.

Bella had multiple fractured ribs, bruising on her lungs, bleeding behind her eyes and a broken leg.

“Bella required surgery and the implementation of a metal rod to repair her broken leg and she continues to recover nicely from her injuries,” said Singas. “We allege that Knoller caused the pain and serious injuries that Bella suffered from blunt force trauma and that she sustained injuries consistent with neck trauma or choking.”

Shortly after Bella was taken to the vet, Singas’ office received a call from its partners at the SPCA, who informed them of the unusual circumstances.

“We immediately knew that the injuries that Bella suffered were severe and could not be explained away as mere accidents,” said Singas. “Clearly, she was beaten. We then began an investigation to discover that the defendants had previously owned two young dogs that both died violent deaths in the weeks before Bella was taken to the vet.”

Between Feb. 8 and Feb. 27, less than three weeks, these three puppies Cooper, Tucker and Bella suffered at the hands Knoller and his wife. As part of the district attorney’s investigation, it was discovered that Bella was in severe pain for at least 15 hours before Kuncman did anything to help Bella.

“Three healthy puppies do not suffer these brutal injuries by accident or as a result of being clumsy young dogs,” said Singas. “In my 28 years of being a prosecutor, I’ve never seen a case where someone committed this kind of serial violence against different puppies. These allegations are horrific and the pain that these animals must have endured is unspeakable.”

Gary Rogers of the Nassau SPCA, who has been helping animals for the past 35 years, said he has never seen such animal abuse like this case.

“It’s basically serial murder of an animal,” said Rogers. “It’s just wrong. It is a precursor to other violent crime. People start out hurting animals before hurting people.”

Bella’s medical expenses are steadily rising with her medical bills already hovering around $18,000. The Nassau SPCA is asking people to help donate money to help cover the mounting costs. People can visit the website www.luckytobealive.ncspca.us if they wish to donate.

“People can donate there for her medical care,” explained Rogers. “She has to have another operation probably this week to take out those metal bars out.”

Knoller is charged with three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and three counts of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals. Knoller was released on his own recognizance, surrendered his passport and is due back in court June 3. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum of two years in jail.

Kuncman is charged with overdriving, torturing and injuring animals. Kuncman was released on her own recognizance, surrendered her passport and is due back in court June 3. If convicted, she faces a maximum of one year in jail.

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