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Hunter kills family dog with arrow

Friday, Mar. 6 | By Megan Spicer
Morgan, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, was killed last October when a hunter shot her with a bow and arrow. Contributed photo.
Craig and Karen LeValley are trying to find something positive out of the grief they’ve endured since Morgan, their 5-year-old German Shepherd, was shot and killed by a bow hunter on the morning of Oct. 4.

Craig remembers the morning of Morgan’s death with a sense of clarity. He recalled that it was a beautiful morning and that Karen had let him sleep in while she let out the dogs – which also include two chihuahuas, Cocoa and Nestle, and another German Shepherd, Zeus.

After waking, he went out to take care of the horses he and Karen own. Zeus came trotting around the side of the house, but Morgan was nowhere to be found.

Craig searched around the house, looking in the place where the dogs normally lay in the yard and sun bathe, but turned up nothing. He checked the stalls, thinking he may have accidentally locked Morgan in one of them.

Still nothing.

“Track,” Craig said to Zeus. The dogs had been highly trained and were capable of tracking. Zeus didn’t respond. Instead, he went into the garage and lied down.

Again, Craig commanded Zeus to track.

Again, no response.

So Craig and Karen, sensing something was wrong, went out to look for their family pet.

When they came back about an hour later, there was a message from the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office. They had Morgan, but probably not in the condition the family would like.

An officer told the LeValleys that there had been a “hunting incident” involving a man and his 10-year-old son.

According to court documents, Howard Richard Van Nostrand, 47, of Warrenton, was 15 feet above the ground in a tree stand when Morgan and Zeus came down the trail, apparently following a deer.

It was then that a series of text messages were sent between Van Nostrand and another hunter, according to Craig, who heard the texts read aloud during the preliminary hearing.

In short, one hunter asked what to do about the two dogs and Van Nostrand said to shoot them. When asked if he was sure, Van Nostrand said it was taken care of.

Van Nostrand shot Morgan with one arrow before shooting another to kill her, according to court documents.

Van Nostrand, a Bristow-based chripractor, did not deny shooting the dog, court records show, but said he did so because he feared for his safety.

According to the criminal complaint, Van Nostrand said he had been “cornered by dogs when he was younger and didn’t want to take that chance again.”

“He told the landowner the reason he shot the dogs [sic] was because a long time ago he was hunting in Africa and a lion was stalking his tent and all he had was a flashlight,” according to the criminal complaint. “He stated to his son he shot the dogs because ‘they had rabies’ and he was protecting the deer.”

Both of the dogs were trained to protect the LeValleys but only when commanded to do so.

“Mr. Kyle Ramsey of Applejack K-9 Academy, said the dogs would have run away if Mr. Van Nostrand had just yelled at them,” according to the criminal complaint.

Craig said he found it difficult to get past the fact that Van Nostrand said he felt threatened when he was 15 feet in the air.

“I find it very hard to believe that he felt threatened,” Craig said.

The LeValleys said they have been instructed to not contact Van Nostrand, though Karen said she knows Van Nostrand's wife since the two show horses.

According to Craig, Van Nostrand’s legal counsel asked for a plea bargain but the request was denied. Van Nostrand will appear in front of a grand jury on March 23.

Van Nostrand was charged with cruelty to animals and destruction of property greater than $1,000.

An early attempt to ask for a plea bargain was denied, according to Craig.

Immediately following the October incident, Craig and Karen were giving their friends updates on what happened to Morgan through Facebook and through their individual pages.

Eventually, they opted to create one page – Paws for Morgan – for people to receive updates.

Through the page, they are sold T-shirts from which the proceeds will go to the Fauquier County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The LeVallys said they want to make sure “this doesn’t happen again.”

“If there’s a way that we can do something to let people know that this isn’t right,” Karen said. “That what happened to us can happen again and we just want to educate hunters to be aware that the dogs are out there.”

Craig said he understands that the dogs were off their property and said he takes full responsibility for that.

“I understand, I get it,” Craig said. “I’m sorry and I’ll stand up in court and say my dog is off my property, I get it, give what’s coming to me. I’ll take my punishment but be damn make sure that the other person gets their punishment. She didn’t deserve this.”

Craig said he hasn’t been issued any tickets or fines but will accept them if he does.

“She was chasing a deer,” Craig said. “Even then, their noses are to the ground following a deer. That man was not in danger. That man was not fearful for himself. That man was pissed off that quote unquote they ruined his hunting day. “

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