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Man accused of knifing dog may be in Colorado -- Warrant for his arrest does not allow for extradition in animal cruelty case

Benjamin James Stavaas

A 23-year-old man on the lam after being accused of felony-level animal cruelty may be in Denver, where a warrant for his arrest does not allow for extradition.

Benjamin James Stavaas of Battle Lake, Minn., faces six charges - two felonies - linked to an alleged admission to slitting the throat of his dog in a fit of rage this summer. After he missed a court date on July 26, an arrest warrant was issued.

The Stavaas case drew an intense reaction from area animal supporters. Twenty of them picketed the July 26 hearing in favor of stiff penalties for Stavaas if convicted. Two years is the longest prison term allowed on the two counts of felony mistreatment.

Ericka Stoltenberg, manager of Otter Tail County's Humane Society, said she was told by a private investigator who had been hired to help find Stavaas that he'd had recent contact with police in Denver.

However, Stavaas' arrest warrant only allowed for extradition from neighboring states, Stoltenberg said.

That angers the shelter manager, who said she will likely push for prosecutors to ask a judge to amend the warrant conditions.

"I feel like it was a major oversight," she said. "It's so easy to travel such a long distance."

Phone messages left for Otter Tail County Sheriff' Brian Schlueter and Lt. Mike Boen on Thursday weren't returned.

Otter Tail County Attorney David Hauser said he hadn't heard of the situation. Heather Brandborg, the assistant county attorney handling the Stavaas case, didn't return a phone message left at her home.

Because of Veterans Day, the courts were closed and most government workers had the day off.

Denver police have not arrested Stavaas, but central departmental records wouldn't necessarily show other contacts with him, said Detective John White.

Star, the German shepherd mix Stavaas is accused of leaving for dead, survived and is staying at the Otter Tail County Humane Society, Stoltenberg said.

"We look at her every day and feel guilty. She's just such a lovable and sweet dog," she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535