Photo: Crime Stoppers

Killer Of Sterling The Dog Gets Three To Six Years In Prison

“Sterling has brought great awareness to such a critical issue that troubles us as a society.”  

April 23, 2019 - 12:29 pm

(WWJ) The Facebook group dedicated to remembering Sterling, the gentle dog with big green eyes, declared what felt to them like a victory in three simple words.

"We did it."

That's how the group announced that Sterling's killer Alex Gerth was sentenced to three to six  years in prison for killing and torturing the dog he adopted. He was sentenced in Macomb County Circuit Court. 

Gerth pleaded no contest to murdering Sterling and leaving him for dead in Grant Park in Utica this January.

He had reached an agreement with Judge Richard Caretti to get the bottom of the sentencing guidelines -- two to 21 months -- in exchange for the essentially guilty plea, but the judge withdrew his original sentencing agreement Tuesday. Instead, the judge sentenced Gerth to three to six years behind bars. More than 6,500 people had signed a petition asking the judge for the maximum sentence, and 40 or so people showed up in court to support Sterling's memory. 

The Facebook group driving much of the effort was ebullient at the judge's decision.

"He deserves more! But it's a start. I hope he meets some real nice "friends" while he's in there," Marie Kester wrote.

Gerth faced a wave of public rage and thousands of death threats after a police investigation revealed him as the suspect who burned Sterling's face with cigarettes and stabbed him to death. The investigation was launched when a park goer spotted a trail of blood leading to the 2-year-old dog's battered body. Sweet Sterling, reported as a Humane Society favorite used in some of their adoption videos, had been adopted by a pal of Gerth's after he was  initially denied the adoption. The friend handed over the dog to his eventual death.

Photos of the dog's face, burned, surfaced after Gerth was charged. Gerth himself later told police he had punched Sterling so hard the dog urinated and defecated all over. One friend told the media she had tried to report the abuse while the dog as alive. Authorities denied there were any previous allegations of abuse.

"This wasn't a heat-of-the-moment situation," Elise Ramsey, manager of field services for the Detroit office of the Humane Society said after Sterling's body was found. "It was disturbing, methodical and premeditated. It was an exhausting encounter. This took time to do."

Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Smith said he had always adamantly opposed any sentencing agreement and asked the judge to exceed sentencing guidelines based on the brutal nature of the crime. Gerth also has a prior criminal record, which includes a bank robbery in Illinois.

The prosecutor pointed out the recent change in law, which would have allowed for a more severe sentence had the crime taken place in April. The maximum penalty for killing or torturing an animal went from four years to 10 years in prison. 

Overall, Smith expressed satisfaction with Gerth's sentence.

“We commend the sentence that clearly demonstrates, crimes of this nature will never be tolerated," he said in a press release. "I want to extend my appreciation to the Utica Police, Animal Control, the Humane Society, my staff and all of the animal welfare activists that have contacted us and played a critical role in seeking justice for Sterling. 

“Sterling has brought great awareness to such a critical issue that troubles us as a society.”  

For their part, members of the social media group created in the emotional aftermath of Sterling's bloody demise shared a common theme. Perhaps karma isn't done with Alex Gerth.

"He's still gotta face the federal judge for his parole supervision violations...," Sandra Marie wrote.

The Macomb Daily reported that Gerth's lawyer told the court he had "impulse control" problems. He's also about to be a father.

“Looking back, I realize there are better ways to handling the situation,” Gerth himself told the court. “I do not say this as an attempt to justify my actions, but rather I respectfully want people to know and understand I did not do this as some kind of sick, twisted premeditated motive. If I could go back and do this differently, I would.”