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Police: Bethesda man enters neighbor's home, kicks dog, threatens to 'break its neck'

Joshua Kurstin (Montgomery County Police Department)

A respected real estate consultant broke into his neighbor's home, kicked the family dog and threatened to break the animal's neck, Montgomery County Police allege.

The fit of rage occurred on the evening of September 13, along Westfield Drive in Bethesda, a residential neighborhood near Thomas W. Pyle Middle School.

According to police, a 14-year-old boy was walking his German Shepherd when that neighbor's Schnauzer-Poodle mix (Schnoodle) escaped from its fenced-in front yard by way of an open gate. The Schnoodle reportedly "attacked" the teen and his German Shepherd, biting both of them. By the end of the scuffle, however, the much smaller Schnoodle fared far worse.

The Schnoodle's female owner, Melissa Kurstin, took the animal to a veterinary hospital with critical injuries. Meanwhile, her husband, Joshua Kurstin, allegedly stormed down Westfield Drive and walked right into his neighbor's home, where he berated the family's 17-year-old daughter. The girl's parents were not home at the time.

"Kurstin was aggressive, enraged, and threatened to kill their dog," charging documents state.

The 37-year-old walked out of the home. The teenage girl immediately locked the door behind him, and called 911. Still steaming, Kurstin then placed his hand inside of the mail slot in attempt to unlock his neighbor's door, police note.

Kurstin was standing on his neighbor's front porch when the 14-year-old boy and German Shepherd returned home from their walk. Sensing hostility, the teenage boy started to record Kurstin with his cell phone.

"Kurstin walked onto the [victim's] driveway and aggressively lunged forward at the dog several times, swinging his right hand at [the victim] to knock the phone out of his hand, provoking the dog," charging documents spell out. "At that time, [the German Shepherd] bit Kurstin's left leg. Kurstin kicked [the] dog and began to chase after them."

It was around that time when the first patrol officers arrived in the neighborhood, which is filled with multi-million-dollar homes and well-manicured lawns.

According to the investigating officer, Kurstin readily admitted to banging on his neighbor's front door, poking his head through their mail slot, and threatening to harm their German Shepherd.

"Kurstin stated he tried to kick the dog as hard as he could, hoping to break its neck," the officer wrote in his report. The 37-year-old was arrested and booked on burglary and assault charges. He bonded out of jail the same day.

“I’ve never had a harsh word against him," said Myron Fedoriw who lives next to Kurstin, and owns a dog of his own. “Knowing him the way I do, it’s very difficult for me to think that he would’ve done that.”

According to court documents, Kurstin is a commercial real estate agent with JLL, a global investment management company. He reported earning $1 million a year.

Kurstin graduated from Walt Whitman High School and the University of Michigan, where he earned degrees in political science and psychology. He and his wife recently welcomed their firstborn child.

Kurstin has retained defense attorney Steven Kupferberg, a lawyer he has reportedly known for the majority of his life.

"He is a fine individual and the situation here is being expanded inappropriately," Kupferberg told ABC7 by telephone Thursday. "We are prepared to handle this in the appropriate setting, which is the Circuit Court for Montgomery County."

Kupferberg shared that the Kurstin family's Schnoodle is recovering from its wounds.

After reviewing the facts of the case, prosecutors dropped counts of third-degree burglary and animal cruelty. However, Kurstin continues to face charges of fourth-degree burglary and second-degree assault, which carry up to 13 years in prison.

Animal attacks in Montgomery County are more common than one might think. Records obtained by ABC7 show 886 bite calls in 2017, and 1255 bite calls as of October of this year. Eighty percent of those incidents pertained to dogs. Around 4.5 percent were classified as "dangerous" or "potentially dangerous" in nature.

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