The Associated Press
October 08, 2004
A man who beheaded his dog was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison under the state's three-strikes law.
James Abernathy, 43, of La Habra, was convicted in June of felony animal cruelty for beating and killing the German shepherd, named Marie, after a fight with his girlfriend. The dog was named after his girlfriend.
Abernathy would have faced a maximum prison sentence of six years if not for two prior convictions in 1986 for assault with a deadly weapon. Other convictions - for false imprisonment and possession of a firearm by a felon - didn't qualify as "strikes," prosecutors said.
In sentencing him, Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino said the punishment was "only appropriate with someone with an extreme history of violence."
Makino's decision was praised by prosecutors.
"The community is much safer after the judge's ruling," said Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown. "Abernathy is a twisted man who needs to be locked up."
Defense lawyers claimed Abernathy suffered from schizophrenia and psychotic delusions that the animal was evil. The judge, however, ruled he was sane at the time of the January 2002 killing.
Abernathy's attorney, William Morrissey, said he disagreed with the judge's decision, but understood "how he got there" and insisted Abernathy wasn't a threat when medicated.
"In the two years I've known him, he's been on anti-psychotic medication and he's probably one of the calmest, most rational, pleasant people I've ever dealt with in this system," Morrissey said.
Abernathy must serve at least 20 years before he becomes eligible for parole, Brown said.
Well gets what he deserves.