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Attorney says client feared dog would injure his children

October 27, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A case involving a dog that was killed earlier this month when it was tied to railroad tracks was forwarded to Circuit Court Tuesday, meaning the man who was charged faces a possible grand jury indictment.

Richard Faircloth, 30, of Martinsburg, was charged with one felony count of animal cruelty. Wearing jail-issued orange clothing, Faircloth was taken to Berkeley County Magistrate Court for the 20-minute preliminary hearing.

After hearing testimony from two witnesses - Cpl. Ron Gardner of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and Berkeley County Animal Control Chief Brad Sheppard, both of whom helped investigate the case - Magistrate Harry Snow forwarded the case to Circuit Court.

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If an indictment is returned against Faircloth, a jury trial will be scheduled.

Faircloth sat slumped forward as he waited for the hearing to begin and hung his head as Sheppard described finding the dead dog, named Kujo. Faircloth did not testify and his attorney, David Camilletti, did not call any witnesses or cross-examine either of the state's witnesses.

During a brief closing argument, Camilletti said that Faircloth should never have been arrested. Although Faircloth may have "incorrectly" killed the dog on Oct. 14, he did so because he feared it was going to injure his children, Camilletti said.

Assistant Prosecutor Richard Stephens argued that the killing was malicious.

"This wasn't an accident. This was well thought-out," Stephens said.

Snow shook his head slightly as he looked at photographs of the dog.

"It's pretty bad," he said before announcing his decision.

The preliminary hearing - the first step in the state's legal process for anyone charged with a felony - began with Camilletti requesting that family members be allowed to post Faircloth's $40,000 bail by putting up property. The bail currently can only be bonded with cash.

Stephens responded that he believes the bail is appropriate, citing the nature of the dog's death and a fear Faircloth could harm someone else.

"This is a very gruesome case, to say the least," Stephens said.

Snow denied the motion.

Gardner then testified that he interviewed Faircloth and his wife, Amy Faircloth, after he was assigned to follow up on a tip. Both said that Richard Faircloth purchased the shepherd-pit bull mix dog as a gift for his wife, Gardner testified.

Faircloth said he tied the dog to the railroad tracks because it had bared its teeth at the couple's children and he was afraid it was going to bite them. He said he and his wife agreed to get rid of the dog, according to Gardner.

Faircloth told police that he tied the dog to the tracks because he did not have the nerve to shoot it, Gardner said.

A blue leash was used to tie the dog to a section of the tracks off East John Street in Martinsburg. Police said they believe the intention was for the dog to be decapitated. Because the dog was able to wiggle its head away slightly, Sheppard said its lower jaw and tongue were severed.

Camilletti objected when Sheppard was asked whether the dog died quickly. Camilletti said only an expert, such as a veterinarian, should be allowed to answer such a question.

Snow agreed.

Seven people, including some affiliated with local animal groups, attended the hearing. One woman, Shari Knadler Persad, said other options existed if the dog did show aggression toward Faircloth's children. Persad said the dog could have been euthanized by a veterinarian or dropped off at the Berkeley County Humane Society.

Conviction on a charge of felony animal cruelty carries a sentence of one to three years in prison.

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