Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
James Andrew Abernathy, 40 stabbing and beheading his dog

La Habra, CA

Orange County

January 27, 2002  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse
Felony

aggravated assault

1 German shepherd dog Convicted  

Abernathy, age 40, was arrested on February 6th, 2002 after police searched his home and found his pet German shepherd dead. A 15-inch wooden stake had been put through the dog's heart and his head had been severed. Police found the torso in a bedroom closet and the dogs' head wrapped in a towel in the garage.

Abernathy was held on $10,000 bail in the medical/psychiatric ward of the Orange County jail until his arraignment.

Abernathy killed and mutilated his dog to impress his girlfriend. He could face life in prison under the state's 3-strike law. Abernathy has twice been convicted of aggravated assault.

Police found a collection of swords and knives in Abernathy's home. It is believed these weapons were used to decapitate the dog-named Marie. Police found pruning shears near the dog's torso when they investigated.

A neighbor called the police after Abernathy walked over to his neighbor's house and said he needed psychiatric help. Abernathy admitted to police he killed the dog after having an argument with his girlfriend.

George Abernathy, his father, said his son was trying to impress his new girlfriend by killing the dog. He was trying to prove to this girlfriend that he loved her so much he could kill his dog for her.

Other family members said Abernathy has shown violent behavior before, including pointing a gun at his sister's head. Abernathy's father stated “He loved this dog, and  "if putting him in prison for 25 years to life is going to prevent him from hurting some innocent person, that's OK with me".

Family members stated after his 2002 arrest that he had been in and out of jail much of his life.  He collected guns, swords, knives and other weapons.  After being discharged from the US Army, Abernathy earned a certificate as a physical trainer but did not pursue a career in fitness.

Prosecutors stated Abernathy once forced his sister to play Russian roulette.  He stabbed 2 men in separate incidences in 1986.  In 1998 police had stopped him in his car with a samurai sword that he planned to use on his ex-wife’s new husband.

Abernathy’s sister stated that as a teenager he beheaded a pet boa constrictor to scare her and filled the family refrigerator with the bodies of skinned animals to scare their stepmother.

Abernathy was taken to a psychiatric hospital for observation and later transferred to jail.

Update 6/4/04:
A sanity hearing is scheduled for 6/7/04 for AbernathyAbernathy claims he was insane when he attacked his German shepherd.

Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said anger, not insanity, drove Abernathy to beat his dog with a golf club, shove a stake through her heart and then decapitate her with pruning shears.

Update 6/28/04:
Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino found Abernathy was sane when he killed his dog.  Judge Makino convicted Abernathy on felony animal cruelty charges after a 2-hour non-jury trial.

Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said Abernathy was diagnosed as a paranoid-schizophrenic when he was in the military.  Abernathy has claimed to be crazy to avoid prosecution after being caught trying to blow up his sergeant in a dispute over a girl while in the military.

Abernathy’s relatives testified he killed animals when he was younger and put them in the refrigerator for his stepmother to find.

Update 10/8/04:
Abernathy was sentenced to 25 years to life under the state’s 3-strikes law.  He was convicted in June of felony animal cruelty for killing the dog.

Abernathy would have faced a maximum of 6 years if not for 2 prior convictions in 1986 for assault with a deadly weapon.

Defense lawyer William Morrissey claimed Abernathy suffered from schizophrenia and psychotic delusions.  The judge, however, ruled he was sane at the time of the killing.

Abernathy must serve at least 20 years before he becomes eligible for parole according to Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown.

References:

San Diego Union Tribune

The Los Angeles Times

CNN

The Pawtucket Times

Dallas County News

PETA

AR-News

Animal People