By Doug Guthrie
Originally published in The Grand Rapids Press, May 10, 2001
ROCKFORD — Testimony about rage at his ex-wife that allegedly led Mark William Kruithoff to beat a dog with a hammer caused a judge on Wednesday to raise the Jenison man's bond and send him back to jail.
"I've been here 28 years and there aren't many things I haven't heard. Some have been pretty bad," Rockford District Judge Steven Servaas told Kruithoff. "You kill somebody because you hate them. You steal money because you want something. I just can't understand what it appears you have done here." Kruithoff, 35, is alleged to have dropped in at his parents' Tyrone Township home on April 18 to find them having dinner with his ex-wife, Carol Kruithoff, and their 2-year-old daughter.
Kruithoff's brother, sister-in-law and that couple's three children, all under 10, were witnesses to what allegedly happened next.
The defendant's sister-in-law, Karen Kruithoff, testified Wednesday about the dog's agony as Kruithoff allegedly struck its head with a hammer at least five times. Then, Kruithoff lifted the 100-pound animal above his head and slammed its bloody body onto the hood of his ex-wife's car.
Karen Kruithoff beccame physically uncomfortable during her testimony. She described the blood, the dog's yelps of pain, and the screams coming from one of the children who saw the alleged attack.
She said she called police when Kruithoff fled. She said Kruithoff's father and brother washed blood off the ex-wife's damaged car before a Kent County Sheriff's deputy arrived.
The dog was alive when the deputy arrived, but in great pain. With the deputy watching, Kruithoff's father, Martin Kruithoff, put the animal out of its misery by shooting it.
Servaas called what he heard Wednesday "appalling," and "inexplicably violent." He asked Kruithoff in court, "What else might you do?"
Kruithoff had been free on $7,500 bond, set by Servaas on April 25, when arraigned on charges of animal cruelty and malicious destruction of property. Hearing details of the allegations for the first time on Wednesday caused the judge to change his mind about the public safety risk of leaving Kruithoff free.
Servaas raised Kruithoff's bond to $50,000 cash and ordered him bound over for trial in Kent County Circuit Court. Kruithoff was taken directly from court to the Kent County Jail.
The incident has caused divisions within the Kruithoff family, said Kent County Sheriff's Detective Heather Martin.
She said all family members have been "very hesitant to get involved" with authorities.
Kruithoff's father supports his son and has asked for charges to be dropped.
"He (Martin Kruithoff) has said the dog was getting old and he was thinking about how he would have to be putting him down sometime soon anyway," Martin said.
Animal cruelty is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. The misdemeanor charge of malicious destruction of property stems from about $1,000 damage done to the hood of Carol Kruithoff's car. It is punishable by up to a year behind bars.
Kruithoff also was charged as a two-time felony offender because of a prior felonious assault conviction in Ottawa County. That status could lengthen his sentence if convicted.
Servaas said he knows the story of Kruithoff's alleged actions have gotten wide publicity.
Servaas said he has received about 20 letters from addresses all over the United States before Wednesday's hearing. He said most called for harsh treatment of Kruithoff.