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Man Who Beheaded His Dog Is Ruled Sane

June 10, 2004|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County judge declared Wednesday that a La Habra man was sane when he beheaded his German shepherd, making the third-striker eligible for a life term in prison.

Two psychiatrists, along with the man's father, testified during a three-day sanity hearing to determine if James Andrew Abernathy, 42, was insane when he killed the dog he had named after his girlfriend.

Abernathy will be sentenced July 23 in the Santa Ana courtroom of Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino.

Friday, the judge found Abernathy guilty of animal cruelty. Prosecutor Heather Brown said Abernathy became enraged in January 2002 after his girlfriend broke up with him, so he beat his dog with a golf club, shoved a stake through its heart and then decapitated it.

"He was drunk and angry, but he wasn't insane," Brown said Friday. "He knew what he was doing, and he knew that it was wrong."

Abernathy's attorney, William G. Morrissey, did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment. He has said his client is a diagnosed schizophrenic.

Felony animal cruelty carries a three-year maximum sentence, but California law allows prosecutors to seek a life prison term for a defendant's third felony conviction. Abernathy was convicted twice in 1986 for assault with a deadly weapon.

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