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|Defense(s):||Bryan Cantrell, Fritz Barnett|
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Wednesday, Apr 8, 2009County: Walker
» Michael Edmonds, Jr.
» Alfonzo Hernandez
Case Updates: 4 update(s) available
A war hero's therapy dog was shot and killed. After the Navy SEAL found his dog injured, he used his skills to track down the two men he saw do it. It's a case that has sparked nationwide attention.
Marcus Luttrell found his dog lying in a ditch. She'd been shot in the left shoulder. Calls continue to come into the Walker County Sheriff's office from around the country -- total strangers are expressing their disgust and outrage over what happened, as well as concern for Luttrell who has already lost so much.
Last week, former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor of a fierce fight in Afghanistan, found himself at war with a different kind of enemy -- a group of men he says shot and killed his beloved dog. She was a white Labrador named DASY -- an acronym for the SEAL team members he lost in battle.
"Some people think dogs are dogs," said Luttrell. "This was my rehab dog that I got after I got shot up in Afghanistan. It's not just a dog. To me it's like my daughter."
Luttrell got in his truck and chased the vehicle and its four occupants more than 20 miles through three counties, driving at speeds over 100 miles an hour before making a citizen's arrest near Onalaska. He stayed on the line with a 911 operator the entire time.
911 operator: "Are you chasing them because they shot your dog?"
Luttrell: "Yeah, that's right."
Operator: "Do you know who these people are?"
Luttrell: "I have no idea."
Two of the men in that car -- Michael Edmonds and Alfonzo Hernandez -- have been charged with cruelty and torture to a non-livestock animal. Investigators tell us they are suspects in at least three other similar cases.
The senseless killing of this war hero's dog is drawing nationwide attention. Luttrell says while he's touched by all the support, all he wants is justice.
"I want them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he said. "I mean, they murdered my dog. That's a member of my family. That's murder."
Both suspects have bonded out of jail. Detectives with the Walker County Sheriff's office will eventually present the findings of their investigation to the Walker County District Attorney's office, who in turn, will present this case to a grand jury.
Luttrell received his dog from America's Vet Dogs, a group that provides service and guide dogs to members of the military. The dog services are provided at no cost to veterans. Earlier this year, a service dog was taken to Iraq to live with military members there to help reduce stress.
|A New Waverly man will spend the next two years in a state jail facility for his role in the shooting death of a local war hero's dog in 2009.|
Alfonso Hernandez, 27, was given the maximum sentence for the state-jail felony charge of cruelty to non-live stock animals by visiting Judge Jerry Winfree on Wednesday and fined $1,000. Hernandez was found guilty of the crime by a Walker County jury in December.
Co-defendant Michael John Edmonds, 24, was sentenced to five years probation and fined $1,000 for the same offense. He admitted to shooting former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's service dog DASY on April 1, 2009, but pleaded guilty and testified against Hernandez in December.
"I want to compliment (assistant district attorneys) Stephanie Stroud and John Hafley for the job they did trying the case," District Attorney David Weeks said. "We were confident in the verdict and the sentencing and glad that the judge took everything into consideration, including the fact that Mr. Edmonds took responsibility for his actions."
During sentencing Wednesday, the state called several witnesses to testify, including Luttrell, who is best known as being the lone survivor of a mission in June 2005 in which his SEAL team was pinned down in a firefight with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Luttrell, a Navy Cross recipient, was given DASY to help him cope with emotional and physical injuries he sustained while fighting in the war.
In the early morning hours of April 1, 2009, Edmonds and Hernandez were riding in a car on Four Notch Road in southeast Walker County when Edmonds shot DASY as she chased the vehicle. Edmonds testified that Hernandez got out of the car beat the animal with a bat.
Luttrell, who helped law enforcement detain Edmonds and Hernandez after a high-speed chase the night of the shooting, testified that he was "still pretty upset" about the incident and that he felt both should have gotten the maximum sentence.
"It took a lot out of me - away from me," he said. "It was like losing a part of my family."
Luttrell's mother, Holly, and two others also took the stand to tell the judge how much the loss of DASY, a Labrador retriever whose name was an acronym of the initials of Luttrell's team members who were killed in the firefight, meant to him.
Holly Luttrell said that Marcus was doing well in his recovery, but took a step back when DASY was killed.
"It sent him back to one-word answers, even to me," she said. "I would be lucky to get one word out of him. ... Animals bring us peace and this brought hell back to my door."
Edmonds testified Wednesday that he had changed a lot since the incident. At the time he said he was a kid who made bad decisions because he was trying to fit in since his parents were going through a divorce.
He said he had it "rough" and was hanging out with the wrong people. He said he was an "ignorant kid" who was angry that he caused so much pain to Luttrell.
Edmonds said that now he is a man who only wants to provide for his infant son and fiancĂ©.
"My whole demeanor has changed. I have a family," Edmonds said. "I work all the time because I am their provider. My child has changed my life - made me a man."
Edmonds was sentenced to two years in a state jail facility but it was suspended to five years of probation. As terms of his community supervision, he has to pay restitution for the monetary loss of DASY, meet all standard requirements of probation and pay $60 a month to the Walker County Department of Community Supervision.
He must also remain in Williamson County, were he now resides, unless given permission to leave, but he was granted a travel pass for work. If he does not comply with the terms of his probation, Edmonds will go to jail for two years.
"My heart goes out to Marcus because he deserves peace and has had way too much going on in his life," said Bryan Cantrell, Edmond's defense attorney. "Believe me, my clients heart was broken when he found out what he did to an American hero.
"We are grateful that the judge took to heart that my client told the truth and the whole truth. I think what my client learned and what I hope the community learns is that when you do the wrong thing and do everything right from then that you get a little mercy. And we did. We got a lot of mercy, a lot more than my client thinks he even deserves."
Maria Hernandez testified Wednesday on her son Alfonso's behalf. She said he was a good kid and that he and his sister were her primary caretakers when she had to recover from brain surgery.
But it was not enough to sway Winfree's decision to give Alfonso Hernandez the maximum sentence. He has seven days to get things in order before he has to report back to district court to be formally sentenced and taken into custody.
Hernandez does have the right to appeal if he chooses to do so.
|Source: itemonline.com - Mar 7, 2012|
Update posted on Mar 8, 2012 - 10:17AM
|A former Navy SEAL left devastated by the brutal slaying of his therapy dog has finally received justice after two men have been found guilty of the murder.|
Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor of Operation Redwing, a SEAL operation in Afghanistan that left 19 American troops dead in 2005.
Badly wounded, he returned to be awarded the Navy Cross and the companionship of Labrador Retriever DASY to help with his rehabilitation.
DASY's name was an acronym of the initials of the veteran's fallen comrades: Danny Dietz, Matthew 'Axe' Axelson, Southern boy â€" Luttrell's nickname â€" and Michael 'Yankee' Murphy.
But in April 2009, Luttrell woke to the sound of a shot gun outside his home in Walker County, Texas.
He grabbed a pistol, checked on his mother who lived next door, and then ran to the road to find DASY shot dead through the shoulder.
'I saw my dog in a ditch and two men standing outside the car,' Luttrell said. 'I could hear them laughing.
'I could tell she tried to get away because there was a blood trail. When I saw she was dead, the only thing that popped into my head was: "I've got to take these guys out."'
Luttrell aimed a gun at the men, but decided not to shoot. Instead, he chased them at speeds of up to 100 mph across three counties. A patrol officer finally pulled them over.
Alfonso Hernandez, 24, was found guilty of cruelty to non-livestock animals, which carries a sentence of up to two years in a state facility and a $10,000 fine.
His accomplice Michael Edmonds, 21, pleaded guilty to the same charge and admitted he was the one who fired the shot that killed DASY.
Prosecutors believe the two men had previously killed several dogs in the area. They also revealed Hernandez kicked and beat the dog as it lay dying.
'It's just unimaginable how someone could do something like this to an innocent dog,' Luttrell said. 'I was just furious.'
On his Facebook page, Luttrell wrote: 'Guilty...promised you DASY I would not give up on you, I know it took a while but we got it done. RIP DASY.'
Luttrell was the only survivor of the SEAL team. Badly wounded, he managed to crawl seven miles to escape, killing six more Taliban fighters along the way.
He wrote a book about his experience called Lone Survivor, which became a New york Times bestseller.
Luttrell said he still wrestles with what he went through: 'I don't talk about it much. I just don't sleep at night. I am in and out of the house all night, going, moving around.'
DASY was given to Luttrell as part of his rehabilitation - retrieving and carrying objects, helping with balance difficulties and alleviating stress.
'It wasn't just a pet, it meant more to me than anything,' he told Fox News after the death. 'I consider that dog like a daughter to me.'
Hernandez 'got out and kicked and beat that dog and thought it was funny. They thought it was just another dog,' Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Stroud during closing arguments.
'To Marcus Luttrell it was so much more. It was a symbol he carried around for what happened to him. He was reminded of the people it was named after. To Marcus Luttrell that was just not another dog.'
Sentencing is expected to take place in February.
|Source: dailymail.co.uk - Dec 5, 2011|
Update posted on Dec 15, 2011 - 9:01AM
|The brother of a New Waverly man on trial for animal cruelty admitted that he initially lied to investigators to keep from going to jail.|
Arturo Hernandez testified in district court on Wednesday that his brother, Alfonso Hernandez, hasn't really killed another dog prior to the April 1, 2009, shooting of a service dog belonging to local war hero Marcus Luttrell -- a lie he said he told a Texas Ranger investigating the dog's death.
Alfonso Hernandez is facing a state jail felony charge of cruelty to non-livestock animals for his role in the death of DASY, a Labrador retriever given to Luttrell to help heal emotional wounds after the Navy SEAL returned home from the war in Afghanistan. Tuesday, Michael Edmonds, one of four men in a car apprehended fleeing the scene of the shooting, pleaded guilty to shooting the dog. The Walker County District Attorney's office has charged Alfonso Hernandez as an accomplice.
Texas Ranger Steve Jeter testified Tuesday that Arturo Hernandez told him during an interview after the death of DASY that Alfonso Hernandez had bragged about killing a dog before. Arturo Hernandez also told Jeter that Edmonds shot DASY even though he said on the stand Wednesday he did not see who shot the dog.
"I did not want to get in trouble. (Jeter) told me I was going to go to jail," Arturo Hernandez said.
Arturo Hernandez also said he lied to Jeter about his brother killing another dog because he "wanted to save his butt."
"I threw (Alfonso Hernandez) under the bus because we weren't getting along at the time," Arturo Hernandez said.
Edmonds, the confessed gunman, continued his testimony Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, Edmonds testified that he and Caleb McGough and Alfonso and Arturo Hernandez were driving around in a car on Four Notch Road in the early hours of April, 1 2009, when a dog (DASY) began chasing the car. Edmonds said he shot it with a .357-caliber handgun, which he later tossed out of the window.
Edmonds said the others wanted to turn around and go back to look at the dog. That is when Edmonds said Alfonso Hernandez got out of the car and began hitting the dog with a wooden bat, which was not recovered when the four men were stopped by an Onalaska police officer an hour after the shooting.
Edmonds also said that before he and Alfonso Hernandez picked up McGough and Arturo Hernandez, that Alfonso Hernandez shot another dog earlier in the evening.
Stephenie Vallie, a former service dog trainer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and owner of Magnolia Boarding Kennel of Huntsville, testified Wednesday that after examining pictures of DASY's remains, she determined the dog showed signs that it did not die instantly after it was shot.
"The way the dog has its mouth slightly open means it was not an instant death," Vallie said.
Vallie also testified that there were marks on the animal, which she said she could not tell were old or new, that looked like injuries she had seen on a narcotics dog that had been beaten with a bat.
Defense Attorney Fritz Barnett asked Vallie if she was an expert in gunshot wounds or necropsy (animal autopsy) and if she was guessing about what had caused the injuries to DASY.
"No sir. I'm not guessing," Vallie replied. "I'm going with experience."
Arturo Hernandez's testimony about what happened that night conflicted with the one Edmonds told. He said that Edmonds and Alfonso Hernandez picked him and McGough up and that they went riding around and smoking marijuana.
Arturo Hernandez said that with McGough driving, the group turned down Four Notch Road and a dog was chasing the car. He said that was when a gun went off and that Edmonds told McGough to turn the car around to go back to see what he got.
Edmonds was the only one who got out of the car, according to Arturo Hernandez, and he began laughing at the sight of the dog. Arturo Hernandez said his brother did not get out of the car and that there was no baseball bat.
Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Stroud said that Arturo Hernandez had told her prior to his testimony Wednesday that he had done too many drugs that night to remember what happened. Arturo Hernandez admitted on the stand that they had smoked $40 worth of marijuana that night.
After the shooting, Luttrell followed the four men in a high-speed chase through Walker and San Jacinto counties. Former Onalaska Police Department patrol officer Lee Harris testified Wednesday that he got a call about the incident over dispatch and that he set up on Highway 190 near the Lake Livingston bridge to intercept the suspects' car.
Harris said he clocked a car --traveling at more than 100 mph-- that was being followed by a truck that matched the description of the vehicle driven by the man who had called 911 claiming his dog had been shot. Harris turned on his lights and began to pursue the first vehicle, and that is when the car being driven by McGough pulled over.
Edmonds testified Wednesday that Luttrell was brandishing pistols and threatened to kill the four men when they were pulled over by police. Harris said he did not hear Luttrell make any threats and that Luttrell told him he was his backup. Luttrell did show Harris a pistol in his waistband, which Harris secured inside his patrol vehicle.
"I did not feel threatened by Mr. Luttrell," Harris said. "The only time he yelled was when he said that he was there to back me up."
Harris said that he recovered a double-barreled shotgun in the car the suspects were riding in, but no other weapons were found. McGough, who was subpoenaed to testify in the trial but did not show up, was charged with having no driver's license and driving more than 100 mph in a 55 mph zone at the scene.
Luttrell is expected to take the witness stand when the trial resumes today.
|Source: menafn.com - Dec 1, 2011|
Update posted on Dec 15, 2011 - 8:52AM
|Michael John Edmonds said that it was time for him to take responsibility for a horrendous crime he committed close to three years ago.|
On April 1, 2009, Edmonds was riding in a car with Alfonso Hernandez, Caleb McGough and Arturo Hernandez when the group turned down Four Notch Road in southeast Walker County. That's when a dog belonging to local war hero Marcus Luttrell began chasing the vehicle.
"I shot it," Edmonds testified in the 278th District Court on Tuesday.
Edmonds was called as a witness by the state in the animal cruelty trial of Alfonso Hernandez on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Edmonds, who was supposed to go to trial as well, changed his plea to guilty in the case concerning the death of DASY, a dog owned by Luttrell, who is a highly decorated Navy SEAL and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.
While Edmonds admitted he was the one who pulled the trigger, Alfonso Hernandez is also facing a state jail felony charge of cruelty to non-livestock animals. Edmonds testified that earlier in the evening Alfonso Hernandez shot another dog and got out of the car after DASY was killed and hit the dog with a wooden bat.
"He hit it and kicked it repeatedly," Edmonds said.
Alfonso Hernandez's defense attorney, Fritz Barnett, argued that Edmonds was only now changing his story after some sort of deal had been worked out with either the Walker County District Attorney's Office, the Texas Rangers, which helped in the investigation, or some other law enforcement agency.
"(Edmonds) must have cut some sort of deal because why else would he change his plea and tell a story that nobody else has heard except for maybe his lawyer?" Barnett asked Judge Jerry Winfree, who was sitting in for Ken Keeling, while trying to get the court to disclose if Edmonds had any pending legal cases other than the animal cruelty charge.
Edmonds' attorney, Bryan Cantrell, told Winfree that nothing was on the table as far as a plea deal was concerned.
"My client's oath and plea had nothing to do with any kind of deal," Cantrell said.
"My decision was to own up to what I did," Edmonds said when he took the stand. "It wasn't right. I owed it to Mr. Luttrell and to my family."
During opening arguments, assistant district attorney Stephanie Stroud said that in the early morning hours of April 1, 2009, Luttrell heard gunshots near his house on Four Notch Road. Luttrell went to investigate and found DASY, a Labrador retriever which had been given to him to heal emotional wounds after he returned from Afghanistan, dead in the road from an apparent gunshot wound.
Luttrell chased the suspects in his vehicle through Walker and San Jacinto counties before officers in Polk County pulled over the other car, which was being driven by McGough. Edmonds and Alfonso and Arturo Hernandez were passengers.
Texas Ranger Steve Jeter was called in to help the Walker County Sheriff's Office in the investigation. Jeter testified Tuesday that after interviewing everyone except Edmonds, he was able to present a grand jury with evidence to indict Edmonds and Alfonso Hernandez with charges of cruelty to animals.
"They said that they went out road hunting, shooting possums, raccoons and squirrels and other animals of that nature," Jeter said.
The state presented into evidence a recording of Jeter's interview with Alfonso Hernandez the day after the incident. Alfonso Hernandez said that they went driving around because there was nothing else to do.
"We started driving around and shooting animals, rabbits," Alfonso Hernandez said in the recording. "... (Edmonds) shot two dogs."
Edmonds testified that earlier in the evening before he and Alfonso Hernandez picked up McGough and Arturo Hernandez, that Alfonso Hernandez had shot a dog. They continued to ride around and that is when they picked up McGough and Arturo Hernandez and went back to Edmond's house to get a .357-caliber handgun, which was used to kill DASY.
Edmonds said they were driving down a dirt road and that he heard a dog barking. The dog was chasing the car and that is when he shot it. He said the others wanted to turn around and go back and that is when Alfonso Hernandez got out of the car and hit the dog with the bat.
Barnett asked Edmonds about the first dog that was shot that night. Edmonds said Hernandez shot that dog and that they were the only two in the car at the time.
Barnett asked who was driving then and Edmonds said Alfonso Hernandez. Barnett then asked how Alfonso Hernandez could have shot the dog if he was driving. Edmonds changed his story and said McGough was driving when the first dog was shot by Alfonso Hernandez.
"How could McGough have been driving if you had not picked him up yet?" Barnett asked.
Edmonds said it had been a while since the incident and that he remembered he was driving and Alfonso Hernandez was in the backseat when the first dog was shot and they had not picked up the other two yet.
Barnett also questioned why the Texas Rangers got involved in the case and that if it was because Luttrell had called Gov. Rick Perry.
"This is about friendships. Why else would a Texas Ranger have investigated this case?" Barnett said. "It is a tragic thing that a man's dog was killed, but two young men don't need to go to prison for it."
|Source: itemonline.com - Nov 29, 2011|
Update posted on Dec 15, 2011 - 8:37AM
- ABC News - April 9, 2009 KWTX - April 9, 2009 KBTX - April 9, 2009 CBS 2 Chicago - April 9, 2009 Houston Chronicle - April 9, 2009 Dallas News - April 9, 2008
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