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Hunter accused of killing, skinning, beheading family dogs claims he mistook them for coyotes

The family says Cimo and Lieben were an inseparable dog duo.

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — It's an emotional and disturbing tale of two beloved Connecticut pets who were killed by a hunter. On Wednesday, that hunter was in court to tell his side of the story.

The story begins somewhere in the remote woods of Ridgefield near Topcrest Lane. It’s where two 10-year-old German Shepherds named Cimo and Lieben spent their final moments alive. Now, a heartbroken family is fighting for justice.

The story then goes from the desolate woods of Ridgefield to a packed Danbury courthouse for a hearing on suspect Mike Konschak’s application for accelerated rehab. 

“Please know that it was never my intent that morning to harm the victims' pets,” said Konschak aloud in court.

Police with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection arrested Konschak in February on charges including tampering with evidence, forgery, interfering with a law enforcement officer and hunting-related violations.

Was it a case of an unsuspecting hunter in fear for his safety, or a cold-hearted animal killer who tried to cover up a crime? 

“Our family spent every waking moment trying to find them along with our community,” said Cimo and Liben’s owner, Erin Caviola.

On Nov 18, 2022, the dynamic dog duo of Cimo and Lieben escaped the confines of their fenced-in yard and started chasing wildlife through the woods. The dogs eventually crossed paths with 62-year-old Mike Konschak of NY who was allegedly illegally hunting on private land. 

“Based on their physical appearance and their pursuit of two deer that morning as well as a lack of collars or identifying tags, I made a reasonable judgment call based on these observations and believed what I saw were wild coyotes,” explained Konschak in court.

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But Konschak didn’t just shoot Cimo and Lieben. He’s accused of beheading and skinning them.

The state’s attorney countered, “He would have noticed that the male dog was neutered and he would have noticed that the female dog had a large hysterectomy scar which would show someone who knows anything about wildlife or has ever owned a dog that these weren’t coyotes.”

Erin Caviola and her family with the help of neighbors and friends spent months trying to find their lost pets until a stranger directed them to photos Konschak allegedly shared of the dead dogs. 

"We live with the emotional pain as we think about what they felt in their final moments lying beside each other dying,” said Caviola.

Konschak, an Air Force Veteran with no previous criminal history applied for accelerated rehabilitation to avoid criminal charges, but the judge ruled the crime was too serious. 

“Based upon that I am going to deny the application,” said the judge. 

Her ruling was immediately followed by clapping and cheering in the courtroom.

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FOX61 caught up with Caviola outside the courthouse to get her thoughts. 

“Definitely, a cloud has been lifted off our shoulders. It does not bring back our dogs in any sense. It does not give us complete closure. We still do not have our dogs' heads,” said Caviola. 

Cimo and Lieben’s heads have never been located.

FOX61 also learned that Konschack reportedly took the dogs' remains to a taxidermy to either get them stuffed or preserve their furs as a rug. An online petition to get justice for Cimo and Lieben has over 55,000 signatures from as far away as South Africa and Japan.

Konschack will be back in court on April 12.


Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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