Man faces jail after failure to appear
April 17, 2019
A Tucumcari man charged of a felony count of extreme animal cruelty faces jail again after a district judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest after he failed to appear in court for arraignment Wednesday.
Tenth Judicial District Judge Albert Mitchell Jr. issued the no-bond warrant after Ralph Fletcher, 29, didn’t show up for his hearing Wednesday afternoon. Fletcher remained at large Monday morning.
Brett Phelps, Fletcher’s attorney, acknowledged to Mitchell he had no contact with Fletcher since his preliminary hearing in late March. Fletcher’s case was transferred from Tucumcari magistrate to district court about that time.
Prosecutor Ozymandias Adams urged no bond with the warrant, saying Fletcher was a “habitual felon” and flight risk. Online court records show Fletcher previously faced charges of gun offenses, receiving stolen property and distribution of synthetic marijuana, all felonies.
Mitchell said he could set conditions for Fletcher’s possible release “when he shows up.” For now, Mitchell said he would set a status hearing for May or June.
Fletcher was jailed briefly in January at the Quay County Detention Center in Tucumcari on a complaint of extreme cruelty to animals, a fourth-degree felony that can lead to up to 18 months in prison or a $5,000 fine.
According to a complaint, Tucumcari Patrolman Justin Garcia was sent to Fletcher’s residence to check on a report of a dog being beaten. Garcia stated he heard a dog being choked and gasping for air and a man yelling, “You are going to learn to listen to me.”
Garcia wrote he then saw Fletcher with his hand around the dog’s throat, choking it. The officer asked Fletcher to back away from the dog, a pit bull puppy. When Fletcher retreated, Garcia stated he saw blood and feces that had come from the dog on a porch.
“Due to the attack the dog was unable to stand on his own,” Garcia wrote. “The dog appeared to be injured with blood coming out of his rectum and seem(ed) to be gasping for air.”
Officers took the puppy to Tucumcari Animal Hospital for treatment after Fletcher was arrested.
The case has drawn considerable interest locally, especially on social media.
Regardless of whether Fletcher is convicted or acquitted of the animal-abuse charge, the animal will end up in a new home.
The puppy had been kept at the city’s kennel as evidence for more than two months. Online court records show Fletcher relinquished the animal in early April.
During a magistrate court hearing in February, Fletcher said he wanted to keep the dog but acknowledged the city’s boarding fees were piling up, and “I have bills to pay.”
According to a person familiar with the case who wished to remain anonymous, the puppy, now nearly six months old, is being transported to an animal-rescue shelter outside of the area.