Crime

Suspect in Colorado shootings had brush with law in North Carolina over his dogs

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear in photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear in photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP) AP

Robert Dear, accused of killing a police officer and two other people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, irritated neighbors when he lived near Asheville by letting his dogs run free.

Dear was cited by a Buncombe County deputy in July 2014 for allowing his dogs to roam free in a rural neighborhood near Swannanoa, sheriff’s spokesman Randy Sorrells said Monday.

Neighbors said Dear, 57, who led a near-hermit’s existence in the rugged hills about 15 miles east of Asheville, let his dogs roam for days at a time.

“Everyone knew he was strange without having to talk to him,” said Mallory Nicoletti, who lived nearby. “He wouldn’t talk to anybody, wave at anybody, nothing.”

Dear lived in a mobile home he purchased in 2006 near Swannanoa, and also had a shack up a rutted road near Black Mountain. A “For Sale” sign is posted on the trailer, and a vintage blue VW bug sits rusting in the front yard.

Sorrells said the dog complaint was the only law enforcement action he was aware of involving Dear, who apparently moved to Colorado in late 2014 or early 2015, leaving his properties behind.

Records on file at the Buncombe County Courthouse show no arrests beyond minor traffic infractions in June 2007, all dismissed by the district attorney’s office.

In November 2002, Dear was charged in Colleton County, S.C., where he lived at the time, with cruelty to animals and was found not guilty in a bench trial.

In 1997, his then-wife reported to authorities in Colleton County that he had assaulted her, but she declined to press charges.

In July 2002, charges against Dear were dropped in a peeping Tom/eavesdropping case in Colleton County, records show.

Robert Lewis Dear is the suspect in the killings of three people at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs. He spent time at this home in Black Mountain, NC.

Ames Alexander contributed.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007, @WashburnChObs

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