By Tom Mustin

LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – The trial is underway for the Longmont man accused of shooting Beefcakes the dog and leaving the pup to die along a rural road.

Russell William Middleton, 38, left the Boulder County courtroom Tuesday with his future hanging in the balance, and plenty of people still talking.

“I believe he’s guilty just from circumstantial evidence,” animal activist Jeffrey Justice told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

Russell William Middleton (credit: (credit: Boulder County Sheriff's Office)

Russell William Middleton (credit: (credit: Boulder County Sheriff’s Office)

Middleton is accused of shooting his former dog, Beefcakes, in the head last July. The pit bull had a broken jaw and was left to die along a rural stretch of Highway 36 in Boulder County.

Outraged residents raised $15,000 to save the dog. Several surgeries later Beefcakes is recovering and living in a new home. Justice says the person responsible needs to pay.

“I like to see people who are cruel to animals and abuse animals face the consequences. We speak for those that can’t speak for themselves,” he said.

Beefcakes (credit: CBS)

Beefcakes (credit: CBS)

Beefcakes (credit: CBS)

Beefcakes (credit: CBS)

Middleton has a long rap sheet with crimes ranging from DUI to child abuse. The sheriff’s office says he told them he shot the dog after it attacked his girlfriend’s Chihuahua.

On Tuesday Beefcake’s former owner Tom Garcia testified he sold Beefcakes to Middleton online, and then helped police identify the suspect.

The defense says Middleton did not pull the trigger, and because there are no witnesses, all evidence against him is circumstantial. District Attorney Stan Garnett says despite the publicity of the case, ultimately a jury will decide Middleton’s guilt or innocence.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“It’s very important the case be decided in the courtroom, based on the evidence presented,” Garnett told Mustin.

As Middleton awaits his fate in a disturbing case of animal abuse, Justice is hoping jurors will remember his last name.

“We don’t tolerate animal cruelty in Boulder County. This is a big case and I hope to see a conviction.”

Middleton is facing several charges including animal cruelty and possession of a weapon by a former felon. Attorneys say they expect the trial to be over by the end of the week.

Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.

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