Iraq war veteran sentenced to 9 years in prison and fined $10,000 for abusing neighbors' dogs
37-year-old David C. Herbert will spend close to a decade behind bars for repeatedly attacking and abusing his neighbors' dogs.
An Iraq war veteran convicted of abusing his neighbors' dogs received the maximum possible prison sentence for the offense: eight years, nine months. Thirty seven-year-old former Navy corpsman David C. Herbert was also fined $10,000 by Vista Superior Judge Carlos Armour.
Handing down the ruling, Armour noted he found the dog abuse "particularly shocking" even though he had handled murder cases during his 40 years in the criminal justice system. He said Herbert's actions were "a planned and sophisticated effort to bring pain and suffering to other people through the suffering of their pets."
According to Stars and Stripes, police and prosecutors said Herbert had repeatedly tormented his next-door neighbors in Oceanside, California, in early 2017. He allegedly slashed their tires — which resulted in two of the tires popping while the car had children in it — and hurt their dogs by burning their flesh with acid or feeding them with poison.
Then, it escalated further. In April 2017, one of his neighbors and her four-year-old son came home to find someone had harmed two of their huskies, one of whom had her eye gouged out. Fed up of the abuse, the family moved out of the home.
Herbert then targeted a new family-of-six which moved into the home and also had two dogs. Less than 48 hours after they had moved in, one of the family's dogs, a nine-year-old Golden Retriever named Lala, went missing. A small amount of her blood was found on Herbert's car but the dog was never found.
After he was caught, a North County jury found him guilty of all the 11 charges he had been indicted with, including six counts of animal cruelty, four counts of misdemeanor vandalism, and one count of burglary — which saw Armour adding another year to his sentence.
But before handing down the sentence the court heard statements from the victims. "How do you explain to a 4-year-old that a human being gets to be so cruel?" said Maria Morales, whose Husky, Estrella, lost her eye after Herbert had gouged it.
Michelle Plaketta, the owner of Lala, who has still not been found, similarly said Herbert "terrorized" them and that he "knew exactly what he was doing" because "he studied it up" and he "looked it up." She said the golden retriever was not replaceable, telling the court, "She was with my daughter through the death of her father. She doesn't have that best friend anymore."
Herbert, who was representing himself during the initial trial, admitted to driving off with Lala, though he did not explain what he did to the dog. After his conviction, he was asked to hire an attorney for the sentencing hearing.
Defense attorney Jim Weintre revealed Herbert was a six-year Navy veteran who had earned a good conduct medal, a combat action ribbon, and an honorable discharge. As a corpsman, he had treated combat injuries in Iraq, with Weintre arguing, "He was shot at, withstood mortar attacks every night and dodged grenades."
Herbert apologized for his actions, saying, "I am sorry that any of this happened. God knows I am sorry."