QUINCY — It was the vicious torture of a once-nameless dog dubbed “Puppy Doe” that, in an ironic twist, turned the spotlight on her alleged abuser, a rootless drifter living on the fringes of society.
The background of Radoslaw Artur Czerkawski, the 32-year-old Polish national arrested last month in a hotel in New Britain, Conn., is something of a mystery. Police reports and court records suggest that he moved from state to state, and out of the country, deceiving a string of people along the way.
One example occurred when he purchased Puppy Doe, whose name at the time was Kiya, from a Worcester couple in June, according to police reports. Czerkawski told the couple that he lived on a large farm in Connecticut, but he actually was living at 89 Whitwell St. in Quincy, in a Victorian home across the street from Quincy Medical Center.
According to Quincy police, Czerkawski hails from Hrubieszów, a town in southeastern Poland, and arrived in the United States on a student visa in 2008. He most recently had a tourist visa, which expired in September. Police believe Czerkawski, who calls himself “Radek,” has also traveled to and from Connecticut, Michigan, Florida, Poland, and Canada.
“He’s been in the country off and on since 2008,” said Quincy Police Captain John Dougan. “It’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle.”
For four months last year, Czerkawski managed to talk his way into living in the rectory at St. Lawrence Martyr Church, a New Bedford Polish parish, by allegedly convincing its priest he wanted to continue training to be a pastor, police records say.
He stayed at the rectory until April 2012, when he informed the priest he was going to Canada. Only days after his departure, church officials discovered that Czerkawski had allegedly stolen $6,700 from three of the church’s checking accounts, the records show.
It’s not clear when he returned to this country, but according to police reports, Czerkawski had lived in Quincy since January, serving as a caretaker for Janina (Malinowski) Stock, an elderly widow who owned the house. He got the job after answering an ad by Stock’s two grandchildren in a Florida Catholic newspaper, police said.
About five months later, police believe Czerkawski decided to get a dog. He scoured Craigslist postings and homed in on a June 8 ad for Kiya.
Anthony Ducharme of Worcester sold the puppy to Czerkawski for $40, according to police records. Ducharme told investigators he watched a well-dressed Czerkawski pull up in a 2013 black Chrysler 300 luxury sedan with tinted windows, chrome factory rims, and Connecticut license plates.
Investigators aren’t sure what transpired over the next three months. What they do know is that Kiya suffered excruciating pain and horrific abuse: broken bones, burns, dislocated joints, a split tongue, a stabbed eye, and starvation.
When the female pit bull was found lying in the street near the Whitwell Street playground on Aug. 31, it weighed 18 pounds — half the normal weight of a pit bull that age. The dog eventually had to be put down.
Also on Aug. 31, Stock was found dead in her home of natural causes. When police arrived, they found Czerkawski there with Stock’s granddaughter Karoline Gierymski.
On Sept. 24, two Quincy detectives returned to the Whitwell Street home and asked Czerkawski if he knew anything about Puppy Doe. Czerkawski told the detectives he saw several kids drinking in the park with one or two dogs a couple of days before Puppy Doe was found, the police report said.
After tracing cellphone records and interviewing Kiya’s prior owners, investigators circled back to Czerkawski. On Oct. 21, police issued an arrest warrant for Czerkawski, who by then had moved out of the Quincy home.
Through phone records, he was traced to a hotel in New Britain, home to the largest Polish community in New England. Before his arrest Oct. 23, he may have pretended to be a priest and asked for donations, the New Britain Herald reported.
Czerkawski was charged with 11 counts of animal cruelty and one count of misleading police investigators. Through a Polish interpreter, Czerkawski pleaded not guilty to all charges on Oct. 29 at Quincy District Court. He is being held on $500,000 bail and is due back in court Nov. 21 for a pretrial conference.
John W. Gibbons, the Milton attorney representing Czerkawski, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have placed a detainer on Czerkawski, with the intention of deporting him after all the criminal charges against him have been resolved, said spokesman Khaalid Walls. If Czerkawski is convicted and sentenced to jail, he would serve that time before being deported. As of last week, Czerkawski, his family, and attorney had not reached out to the Polish Consulate in Cohasset, said Marek Lesniewski-Laas, honorary consul for the Republic of Poland.
When Quincy police entered Czerkawski’s name in a criminal data base, it turned up his name in connection with the theft of checks. That was the break that enabled New Bedford police to track down the man who a year earlier had stolen $6,700 from the church that had taken him in, said Captain Steven Vicente.
“We have no record of this guy ever being in this area, and then he vanished,” Vicente said. “This seems to be his track record.”
He was in Poland at some point in 2011, but in January 2012, he arrived at Saint Lawrence Martyr Church in New Bedford and told Pastor Marek Chmurski of his wish to be a priest, according to court and police records.
In Chmurski, Czerkawski had found not only a compatriot but a connection to SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich. Chmurski graduated from that seminary, which Czerkawski claims to have attended.
According to Michigan Secretary of State records, Czerkawski obtained a driver’s license Dec. 12, 2008, listing the seminary as his residence.
In the four months he lived in the rectory, Czerkawski was practically a stranger to parishioners. A woman who answered the rectory door last week, and declined to give her name, said she knew nothing of him other than he was quiet and attended Mass.
When the allegations about the stolen checks and the tortured dog surfaced, the woman said, parishioners and staff were flabbergasted.
On May 7, 2012, Chmurski and the parish secretary noticed 11 checks from three church accounts had been stolen and cashed. By the time the theft was reported, Czerkawski was long gone, his phone number disconnected, and he had no known address.
In New Bedford, Czerkawski will eventually face 11 counts of larceny and one count of larceny from a building, according to court records.
After Mass Sunday, parishioner Suzanne Saulniers said Czerkawski never joined in the community. “[Chmurski] didn’t know that [Czerkawski] was a con artist,” she said.
In the wake of the check thefts, the Diocese of Fall River informed Chmurski he would no longer preside over St. Lawrence Martyr Church and would be reassigned. The diocese said it had been looking into various concerns raised by parishioners over the past year, including allowing a layman to live in the rectory. Although Chmurski will remain in good standing, he will not serve as pastor of a parish, according to the diocese. Chmurski could not be reached for comment.
Saulniers said she does not agree with the decision from the diocese because Chmurski himself was a victim of Czerkawski. “There’s no association with him and Radek,” she said. “[Radek] probably did his Web research because Father Marek didn’t know him from a hole in the wall. He just brought him in as he would any person who needed help.”