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Ventura County

Father Guilty in Pet Death

Jury convicts Oxnard man who dissected daughter's guinea pig because he thought it was a spy robot. He faces up to three years.

October 25, 2002|Holly Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

An Oxnard man who dissected his young daughter's guinea pig because he thought it was a government spy robot has been convicted of animal cruelty for starving the rodent to death, a prosecutor said Thursday.

After a day of deliberations, a Ventura County Superior Court jury Wednesday night also convicted Benny Zavala, 34, of being under the influence of methamphetamine, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Redmond said.

Jurors acquitted Zavala of a second animal cruelty count of torture because the guinea pig was already dead when dissected.

Zavala, who is free on bail, faces up to three years in prison when Superior Court Judge Donald Coleman sentences him Nov. 20. However, he will most likely receive time in Ventura County Jail or probation because he has no serious criminal record.

According to authorities, Zavala was at home with his father the night of Sept. 13, 2001, when he invited a neighbor to his house. In front of his father and the neighbor, Zavala allegedly poked at "Guinea" with a knife and talked about a hidden camera inside. Zavala was accused of beating the guinea pig on the head with a screwdriver after the neighbor left and then cutting it open.

After the dissection, Zavala called his neighbor again and told her he now realized the animal wasn't a robot. The neighbor notified mental health officials, who contacted police.

At trial, Zavala's attorney argued his client was not high on methamphetamine and that his bloodshot eyes were the result of smoking marijuana. The defense also said the guinea pig had died from starvation. A necropsy confirmed the starvation.

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