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Williamsport man who shot dogs found guilty of animal mutilation

November 07, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A Washington County Circuit judge on Thursday morning found a Williamsport man guilty of two counts of mutilating an animal and two counts of malicious destruction of property under $500.

Jeffrey Hurd, 55, of 11845 Camden Road, killed a Labrador retriever with a high-powered rifle in July 2007 and killed a German shepherd in 2008. In each case, the dogs were chasing wild game onto Hurd's property, Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III said.

Hurd also faces a multimillion dollar lawsuit filed by the owners of the dogs and other neighbors who allege that Hurd is a nuisance who patrols the property line armed with a gun, fires a gun daily and has made death threats to his neighbors and government officials.

Hagerstown attorney Bruce Poole in June filed a complaint on behalf of Eric and Mary Haberkorn, two of Hurd's neighbors. In September, Poole filed an amended complaint that included grievances from several other of Hurd's neighbors and asked for a total of $3.4 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

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Poole on Thursday said he would not elaborate about the death threats to neighbors and government officials, saying only that one of the death threats involved a state government official.

In the criminal case, Hurd's defense attorney, Lewis Metzner, said that based on a state statute, his client had the right to shoot the dogs before they caught and "mutilated"the wild animals.

A trial was held before Boone Oct. 27.

That defense did not prevail because Hurd had alternatives, Boone said. Hurd could have contacted the Department of Natural Resources, other law enforcement agencies or the animals' owners, the judge said.

The state statute referenced by Hurd's defense was meant to prevent people from hunting deer with dogs, and did not provide a defense to the crimes with which Hurd was charged, Boone said.

In connection with the July 22, 2007, shooting death of a Labrador retriever named Bristal, Boone wrote in his opinion, "Despite the claim that Bristal was pursuing a deer, Defendant's actions, causing the animal pain, suffering and death, may be construed as unjustified and unnecessary."

In response to Hurd's defense that shooting the dog was justified because Bristal was interfering with his right to use and enjoy his property, Boone said that any damage done to Hurd's ability to use his property was less than the damage done to the victim as a result of Hurd's actions.

For the same reasons, Boone also found Hurd guilty of the May 8, 2008, shooting death of a German shepherd named Harley.

After Thursday's hearing, Harley's owner, Jim Rudolph, talked about the dog's death.

He was walking Harley down a lane near their home and let him off the leash. Harley saw a rabbit and took off toward the woods that border Hurd's property.

"Bam, that quick," Rudolph said. "Then two other shots rang out."

When he got to Harley, the dog was still breathing, but he soon died.

Rudolph is also a plaintiff in the civil action.

The animal cruelty charges, which are felonies, each carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Each of the destruction charges carries a sentence of 60 days in jail and a maximum $500 fine.

Boone ordered that a 1998 presentence investigation report about Hurd be updated before sentencing, which he said would take place in about a month. The report had been completed after Hurd was convicted of harassment in 1998, Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said.

Hurd's criminal history also includes a conviction for a fourth-degree sexual offense, Michael said.

Records of those cases no longer are available in Washington County District Court.

According to the report, Hurd has "serious mental health issues" and "refuses to acknowledge this," Michael said. Hurd places the blame for his actions on his victims, Michael said, again referencing the report.

The judge allowed Hurd to remain out on $50,000 bond but ordered him not to have any firearms on his property.

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