Months after the death of Tommie the pit bull, police make arrest

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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT/WHSV) — 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 earlier this year.

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 told media 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, Virginia lawmakers passed a bill 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.