Man sentenced to 5 years for killing Tommie the pit bull
UPDATE (Aug. 28):
The Richmond Police Department says the man who burned Tommie the dog and left him for dead in an animal cruelty case
was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday.
Jyahshua A. Hill, 20, was originally arrested May 20 by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force and charged with felony animal cruelty.
“As part of a plea agreement, Hill will serve five years in prison, the maximum sentence allowable by law, without the possibility of parole,” the Richmond Police Department said in a news release. “In addition, he will have three years of post-release supervision by the court. He is also barred from owning or possessing animals for life.”
Hill was indicted by a grand jury on May 8 and arraigned May 21.
The dog suffered burns to more than 40 percent of his body after being tied to a fence post and covered in a flammable liquid. He was then lit on fire. Tommie was treated for his injuries, but later died five days later.
Hill’s wife appeared at his arraignment this past spring and claimed his name was falsely given to police so they could collect the $25,000 reward money for capturing Tommie’s killer.
She said he had never seen the dog before.
The case sparked widespread outrage and support for Tommie and Richmond Animal Care and Control. Millions of people followed Tommie’s story, and donated well over $100,000 since his traumatic event.
Investigators are crediting information from the community with helping officers solve the case.
“There are a lot of people to thank, but I’d like to single out all the citizens who contributed tips that pointed us in the right direction” saidPolice Chief William C. Smith earlier this year. “That, plus the excellent job done by arson investigators who did the bulk of the work, major crimes detectives, forensics technicians and animal control officers who all built a strong case to present to the grand jury.”
An incredible number of tips came in to both RACC and Richmond police, ultimately leading investigators to Hill.
“We had so many people reach out," said Christie Chipps Peters, director of RACC. "It’s an unbelievable case... (Richmond police) had more people from the community rally around this case, than they have seen in a very long time.”
Peters says firefighters from Engine 5, which is nearby Abner Clay Park, quickly rushed over to put out the flames.
“They literally opened their bay doors and saw him on fire and ran across the street with their fire extinguishers," she said.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has assigned two attorneys to the case; one has expertise in arson and the other in animal cruelty prosecutions.
After Tommie’s case became public, Virginia passed a law known colloquially as “
” to stiffen penalties for animal abuse. The law went into effect July 1.
Richmond police have arrested a man in connection to tying a pit bull to a pole and setting him on fire.
The dog, named Tommie by his rescuers, drew international support before dying at Richmond Animal Care and Control
Jyahshua A. Hill, 20, was arrested shortly after 3 p.m. on Monday by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force. Hill is charged is with one count of felony animal cruelty.
Hill, of the 1300 block of St. Peter St. in Richmond, was indicted by a grand jury on May 8.
On May 21, at his first appearance before judge, his wife
that "the accusation is very false" and claimed someone falsely gave her husband's name to police so they could cash in on a $25,000 reward offered by Richmond Animal Care and Control for information leading to a conviction.
Tommie the pit bull was tied to a pole at Abner Clay Park in Richmond in February, doused with a flammable liquid, and set on fire. Witnesses saw a man wearing multiple layers of pants run from the scene, but that was the only description provided.
Firefighters had to extinguish the flames while the dog was still burning.
“They literally opened their bay doors and saw him on fire and ran across the street with their fire extinguishers," said Christie Chipps Peters, of Richmond Animal Care and Control.
With 40% of his body covered in burns, he was treated at the Virginia Veterinary Center and received world-class care at the VCU Evans-Haynes Burn Center, with donations pouring in from around the world.
RACC said that not many cases rattle the staff, but Tommie's made them "want to just sit on the floor and cry."
Sadly, his burn wounds continued to grow to affect his entire body, and he eventually died from his injuries five days later.
"He had just finished having his bandages changed and stopped breathing; his body simply gave out," the RACC Facebook page said at the time. "Tommie was pain free and surrounded by people that loved him when he passed."
The case sparked widespread outrage and investigators credit information from the community with helping officers solve the case.
“There are a lot of people to thank, but I’d like to single out all the citizens who contributed tips that pointed us in the right direction” said Interim Police Chief William C. Smith. “That, plus the excellent job done by arson investigators who did the bulk of the work, major crimes detectives, forensics technicians and animal control officers who all built a strong case to present to the grand jury.”
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has assigned two attorneys to Hill's case – one with expertise in arson and the other in animal cruelty prosecutions.
Hill was assigned a court-appointed attorney. His wife says she is pregnant with his first child and they have several children in their home, all of whom have been the target of death threats since his arrest.
"I've experienced a lot of threats to me and my family," said Hill's wife. "That people are going to burn my apartment down... hang my kids, burn my kids alive. I just want it to stop."
She said she had never seen the dog before.
Anyone with information in connection to the case is still asked to call RFD Fire Investigator Lt. B. Dalrymple at 804 646-5421 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.
In the months after Tommie's death,
dubbed 'Tommie's Law,' which establishes harsher penalties for anyone convicted of animal cruelty in the commonwealth of Virginia.
It makes the charge a class 6 felony in Virginia, and goes into effect on July 1.
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