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Man guilty in dog's death

December 22, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

E. Russell Hicks Middle School science teacher and Hagerstown landlord Courtney D. Beard was convicted Tuesday of charges that he fatally poisoned a neighbor's poodle in June.

Retired Baltimore County District Judge John C. Coolahan, sitting in Washington County District Court, found Beard guilty of malicious destruction of property worth less than $500 and animal cruelty.

Beard, 59, of 20401 Chuck Lane east of Hagerstown, was convicted of poisoning Charlie, a miniature poodle owned by Eric and Shawn Rosenthal, by putting a substance containing antifreeze in the Rosenthal's yard.

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Coolahan ordered Beard to spend six months on supervised probation and suspended a 30-day jail sentence on the malicious destruction of property conviction.

Beard was fined $600 on the combined convictions and was ordered to attend anger management classes.

Several of the Rosenthals' neighbors testified that Beard, whose Black Rock Estates property borders the Rosenthals' back yard, has a history of yelling at barking dogs in the neighborhood. One neighbor, Carolyn Moser-Smith, testified that Beard yelled in a "panicked and desperate" way at the Rosenthals' dogs, Charlie and Nikki, the night before the dogs showed signs of being poisoned.

Following closing arguments, Coolahan said the prosecution's case was built on circumstantial evidence.

But Coolahan told Beard, "Over the course of time, (the barking) irritated you to no end. On the night prior to the poisoning, it finally got to you. The court thinks you placed materials in their yard the following morning ... for them to be poisoned. I find you guilty."

Beard's attorney, John Salvatore, said he plans to appeal the decision.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Carol Mowen, public information officer for Washington County Public Schools said, "We have just learned of this decision. Mr. Beard is still an employee of the system at this time. I have no additional information to share."

Charlie, who was taken to a Manhattan veterinary hospital for treatment following symptoms of poisoning, was put to sleep after his condition did not improve, Eric Rosenthal testified. The other dog, Nikki, survived.

Beard, who testified that he did not poison the dogs, shook his head in response to Coolahan's ruling.

"You're shaking your head that you didn't do it, but I found differently," Coolahan said.

Moser-Smith testified that on the night of June 27, the Rosenthals' dogs "were barking a lot."

When asked to describe how Beard sounded when he yelled at the dogs, Moser-Smith paused, saying she wanted to get the tone right, and yelled hoarsely from the witness stand: "He said, 'Shut the (expletive) up. Take the dogs in the (expletive) house. I can't even watch TV.'"

Beard testified that he has yelled at barking dogs in the neighborhood but said he did not poison the Rosenthals' pets.

Beard handled a photograph frame from his house that held four pictures, two of which were of a family member's dog.

"I love dogs," he said.

Salvatore said in his closing argument, "People who love dogs don't kill dogs. People who love dogs don't poison dogs."

Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael, in his closing argument, said, "People who love dogs don't relentlessly curse at them on a weekly, daily basis."

Eric Rosenthal, 40, said, "I think justice was served. It still blows me away that somebody could do this to a poor ... animal."

Beard said he did not want to comment following the trial.

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