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W.Va. lawmakers, candidates condemn dog's grisly death

October 20, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The brutal killing of a dog tied to a set of railroad tracks last week will not have happened in vain if legislators pass two related bills in the upcoming session, local legislators and candidates said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

One of the bills would make it a crime to torture or kill an animal as a means of intimidating a spouse or another person, said John Yoder, a former state senator from Jefferson County who is seeking the 16th District Senate seat again.

Cpl. Ron Gardner, with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, said he conducted a videotaped interview with the man charged with killing Kujo. Richard Faircloth, 30, of 115 Swartz St., Martinsburg, said in the interview that he killed the dog because it growled at his children.

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However, when Gardner interviewed Faircloth's wife, Amy Faircloth, she said her husband likely killed the dog because the couple had been fighting, Gardner said Monday night.

"This was an example of domestic terrorism," Trish Reid, with the Shenandoah Women's Center, said during the press conference.

Around 25 people, plus three leashed dogs, attended the press conference, held in front of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library.

"We're trying to make sure they're in a safe world," Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, said after mentioning the dogs people had brought with them. One of the dogs was found on the side of the road and had been shot, its owner said.

Overington said he helped pass a bill last year that made intentionally torturing or maliciously killing a dog a felony. Until then, the only penalty for animal cruelty was a misdemeanor - or "a slap on the wrist," Berkeley County Animal Control Officer Erin Webber said.

The man charged with killing Kujo was charged under the felony statute and the case might be one of the first in West Virginia using the statute, Overington said.

Christine Wolf, with The Fund For Animals, a national organization that works on animal welfare-related issues, commended legislators for their concerns for animals and thanked those who helped create the felony animal cruelty law.

"This is indicative of future sociopathic behavior," she said of animal abuse.

Wolf said she and other female relatives, including her mother, are all domestic violence survivors who witnessed horrendous animal abuses committed by the men in their lives.

She said she is sometimes asked why she works on behalf of animals rather than people.

"My answer is simple. We're working at the source," Wolf said.

There is a proven link between people who abuse animals and people who hurt other people, including spouses or their children, she said.

Legislators said they also intend to introduce in next year's Legislative session a second animal-related bill that would enable police to cross-reference cases of animal cruelty with cases of domestic violence, Overington and Yoder said.

To bolster support for both laws, Overington said he will probably pass out to legislators newspaper articles about Kujo's killing. He predicted both bills will garner support from Democrats and Republicans.

Faircloth, who was being held in Eastern Regional Jail on $40,000 bail, was taken into custody Monday.

Police allege he tied the dog to the tracks with a short blue leash in an apparent attempt to decapitate it. Instead, the dog was able to wiggle its head away a little, causing its lower jaw to be cut off by the passing train.

The dog, which Animal Control officers said likely suffered by bleeding to death, was found the following morning on a set of tracks behind the Adam Stephen House in Martinsburg, off John Street.

Amy Faircloth told police that when she noticed Kujo was missing she confronted her husband, who told her "that the dog would be lucky to make it home," according to a criminal complaint filed by Gardner in Berkeley County Magistrate Court.

After reading a newspaper article about a dog being hit by a train, she told investigators that she believed the dog might have been hers.

She provided investigators with a photograph of Kujo. Gardner then confirmed Kujo was the dog who had been tied to the tracks, records state.

Magistrate Scott Paugh issued an arrest warrant charging Richard Faircloth with the felony.

Conviction on the charge carries a sentence of 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000.

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