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W.Va. man sentenced to prison in dog's death

August 09, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Citing the fear and pain suffered by a dog that was killed when tied to a set of railroad tracks last year, a judge on Monday sentenced the man found guilty of killing Kujo to serve one to three years in prison.

Richard Faircloth, 30, of Martinsburg, showed no emotion as Circuit Judge David Sanders announced the sentence. Afterward, as he was being led from the courtroom, Faircloth smiled and nodded toward his family.

As a condition of Faircloth's conviction on a felony count of animal cruelty, he cannot own any pets for 15 years, Sanders told him.

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Sanders denied a request from Faircloth's attorney, David Camilletti, that he be sentenced to serve probation or be given home confinement.

When he was given a chance to make a statement, Faircloth briefly said he was sorry for what happened. He did not mention the dog.

"I'm real sorry for what I put my family through," he said.

Because of the state's "good time" policy - in which one day is removed from an inmate's sentence for each day he behaves - and overcrowded conditions in the state's jails and prisons, Faircloth could serve a year and a half or less in prison, Berkeley County Assistant Prosecutor Betsy Giggenbach said.

Sanders ruled that if Faircloth, who has been in jail since a jury found him guilty June 9, is released from prison on parole, he must undergo counseling.

The body of Kujo, a German shepherd/pit bull mix, was found on a set of railroad tracks Oct. 14, 2004, off John Street in Martinsburg.

The dog, which had been tied to the tracks with a short blue leash, died when a train severed its tongue and lower jaw.

Giggenbach called three witnesses to testify during the hour-long sentencing hearing.

Priscilla Timbrook worked with Faircloth's wife, Amy Faircloth, at a no-kill animal shelter in Charles Town, W.Va. Timbrook testified that Amy Faircloth said her husband killed Kujo as retaliation because he thought she was having an affair.

Michelle Hale, who also worked at the shelter, Briggs Animal Adoption Center, said Amy Faircloth was scared that her husband would hurt her.

Amy Faircloth once brought two cats to the shelter because she said she was afraid to leave them at home. Other stray animals she brought home disappeared, Hale said.

Mary Lou Randour, a psychologist who specializes in the animal-protection field, addressed the link between animal abuse and domestic abuse.

Randour, who wrote a pamphlet about the link, said 70 percent to 88 percent of women who come to shelters for battered women report that their partners killed or threatened to hurt a pet.

Although Richard and Amy Faircloth, 24, deny the existence of domestic violence in their relationship, Randour said that is not atypical.

On average, a woman will report seven incidents of domestic battery before terminating an abusive relationship, Randour said.

An abuser sometimes will commit "a symbolic homicide," such as killing a pet, to warn his girlfriend or spouse that she could be next, Randour said.

After the hearing, Giggenbach said she believes Kujo's death was a symbolic homicide.

"I think it was very important to show the link with domestic violence," Giggenbach said, mentioning a Family Protection Act order Amy Faircloth sought last October.

That order was sought Oct. 18, 2004, the day Richard Faircloth was arrested by now-Sgt. Ron Gardner of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

In the order, Amy Faircloth wrote that her husband took her dog Oct. 13 and tied it to a set of railroad tracks, and had threatened her.

"On Oct. 16, my husband (Richard Faircloth) threatened to kill me if I tried to leave him. I believe that he may try to carry out these threats. I fear for my son and I's safety," Amy Faircloth wrote in the order.

At her request, the order was dropped Oct. 25, 2004.

Richard Faircloth told police he killed the dog because it growled at his children, according to police testimony during Faircloth's trial in June.

Amy Faircloth told The Herald-Mail on Oct. 18, 2004, that Kujo was gentle, loyal and was "the smartest dog I've ever seen." Since then, however, she has claimed the dog was "a threat."

After a jury found her husband guilty in June, Amy Faircloth told reporters that Kujo was mean and that her husband was protecting his family.

"He had a right to protect his children," she said.

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