WELLSBURG — A Wellsburg man pleaded guilty Monday to animal cruelty in connection with the Oct. 6 shooting death of a Cavalier King Charles spaniel on his property.
Ronald J. of Wellsburg; Sebek, 71, is due back in court on Dec. 12 for sentencing.
Accepting the plea, 1st Judicial Circuit Court Judge Ronald Wilson said penalties for the crime include one to five years in prison and a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000.
Brooke County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Barkey said that when questioned by a Brooke County sheriff’s deputy, Sebek admitted to shooting the dog with an air rifle, but later denied that he threw it over a hill.
Barkey said several lawn workers told deputies they saw Sebek abandon the dog.
The dog was taken to a Wheeling veterinarian, who removed a small metal pellet from its abdomen and pronounced it dead from blunt force trauma and internal bleeding.
Barkey said the dog’s owner reported the dog missing on Sept. 22 and notified the Sheriff’s Department that he had received information that Sebek had shot and destroyed it.
Dean Williams, the attorney representing Sebek, said after the hearing. “It was a disaster. Mr. Sebek has acknowledged that, expresses deep sympathy for the family, is willing to take responsibility and wants to move on.
When the hearing ended, half of the courtroom was filled with about 30 people.
Many of them had gathered outside the court early in the morning reading the signs “Justice for Poppy” The name of the dog; And carrying photos of the dog.
Among them was Donna Sullivan, who said many came to support the owner and her family, which includes three children, but also to voice their disapproval.
“I think people don’t want to put up with these things — people who shoot a dog or a cat because it’s in their yard,” she said.
Sullivan said thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the maximum sentence for the person responsible for the dog’s death.
“I think it speaks volumes about how unhappy people are.” she said.
Also Monday, Wilson accepted a charge of fleeing an officer with reckless indifference to Ryan J. Johnson, 18, of Follensbee.
Johnson was sentenced to a 24-month deferral period during which he must undergo counseling and comply with other conditions, such as probation, or 1 to 5 years in prison and a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000.
According to police reports, on Aug. 5 a Follensbee police officer observed Johnson driving an all-terrain vehicle on Allegany Street into the oncoming lane, then onto State Route 2, Mahan Lane and Eldersville Road; and fish trade in wet ways.
Barkey said the pursuing officer ended the pursuit out of concern for the safety of the officers involved and the public.