Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18875
Classification: Throwing, Mutilation/Torture, Drowning
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Prosecutor(s): Tony Clark
Judge(s): Jim Nideffer

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Tuesday, Nov 1, 2011

County: Washington

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Dustin Ricky Harrell

Case Updates: 5 update(s) available

A Jonesborough man was arrested on animal cruelty charges after he allegedly tortured and killed a family dog, according to a Washington County Sheriff's Office news release.

Dustin Ricky Harrell, 21, 1178 Old Stage Road, Jonesborough, was charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal after he admitted to investigators that he killed a family dog named Honey, according to Sheriff Ed Graybeal.

Harrell repeatedly threw the dog down stairs, held it under water and cycled it through a clothes dryer for approximately four minutes, Graybeal said in the release.

The dog's leg was broken during the torture, causing it to cry for help. The dog's mouth also was taped shut to prevent it from crying out further.

Harrell was being held in the Washington County Detention Center in lieu of $10,000 bond pending an appearance in Sessions Court on Monday at 9 a.m.

Case Updates

Dustin Ricky Harrell pleaded guilty to aggravated animal cruelty in Washington County, TN court today. He admitted to the judge he killed his family's Yorkie last November after nearly four hours of torture.

"I threw it down the stairs, I put it in the washer and dryer, and I held the dog underwater," Harrell told the judge. "I killed and tortured my family dog and I tried to be truthful from the start. I did not want to hide anything your honor. I wanted to come in and tell the truth from the very first time."

During Wednesday's hearing Judge Robert Cupp asked Harrell what possessed him to be so cruel to an animal. Harrell testified he was sexually abused as a child and that his own alcohol and drug abuse played a role.

"That combined with drug and alcohol abuse, it don't mix and it will take you down a long, hard road," Harrell said. "I can tell you what I did with drugs and alcohol, but I have no excuse for it. At the time, I'd done synthetic drugs such as bath salts. I'd done heroin and Oxycodone."

Harrell told the judge he went into a rehab treatment center in January and spent 30 days there. Judge Cupp will sentence the man on July 10.

His sentence could range from one to two years in prison unless the judge decides to grant him judicial diversion. According to Assistant District Attorney Erin McArdle, since Harrell pleaded guilty to the original charge, the judge has more discretion than usual when it comes to sentencing. However, prosecutors say they will push for the maximum sentence.

"The volume of the crime that he committed, aggravated animal cruelty, and the steps that he took to commit that crime, he deserves to be in prison for that," McArdle said.

Animal activists were also on hand for the plea hearing. Seven members of Bridge Home No Kill Animal Rescue told us at the least, they believe Harrell should spend some time behind bars.

"Even if it's half the time it's a good beginning for justice," Bridge Home No Kill Animal Rescue President Regina Isenberg said. "We would love to have the maximum, but we're also content if that's what the judge decides. I hope the young man had learned his lesson and the little treatment he got, I hope it's the beginning and not the end. We're here for justice for Honey and it looks like justice could come."
Source: - May 30, 2012
Update posted on May 31, 2012 - 1:14PM 
In the midst of setting a trial date for a Jonesborough man accused of torturing and killing the family pet, a Yorkie named Honey, a judge took time to call out animal rights activists in court to tell him they offended him.

Dustin Ricky Harrell, 22, 1178 Old Stage Road, Jonesborough, is charged with aggravated animal cruelty for Honey's death in November.

Court records indicate Harrell tortured the 4-pound miniature dog for four hours at the family's residence before she died.

He's accused of throwing the dog down a flight of stairs, attempting to drown her and putting her in a clothes dryer for four minutes.

An investigator in the case said in the affidavit that each time Harrell injured the dog, he would comfort it. Honey eventually died in Harrell's arms.

At one point during the ordeal, Harrell apparently put painter's tape around Honey's mouth because she was crying after he broke her leg.

He also told the investigator that he used an Icy Hot sleeve on Honey's broken leg.

When Honey stopped crying, Harrell took the tape off her mouth. After that, she started bleeding from the mouth and died.

During each of Harrell's court hearings, animal cruelty activists have attended and worn T-shirts that say "Stop Animal Abuse" and "Justice for Honey."

Harrell's attorney, Jim Bowman, asked Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp for a bench trial in the case. It's set for May 30.

During the hearing, Cupp asked three women wearing the "Justice for Honey" shirts to stand.

"That offends me," Cupp said. "You don't need to tell me" to get justice.

"That's what this courtroom is for," he said.

Cupp told the women they cannot wear the T-shirts to any more court hearings.

Also during the hearing, Bowman told Cupp his client has been "engaged in some intensive rehabilitative programs," for drug and alcohol abuse.

A county investigator was assigned to the case after Harrell's stepfather, Ricky Harrell, called to report the possible intentional killing of an animal.

When Investigator Jeff Miller interviewed Dustin Harrell, the officer wrote in an affidavit that Harrell admitted to torturing Honey.

Harrell has been free on a $10,000 bond since shortly after his arrest in November.
Source: - Mar 12, 2012
Update posted on Mar 13, 2012 - 9:41PM 
Protestors returned to court today to watch what happened when a Tri-Cities man went before a judge accused of torturing and killing his dog.

Dustin Ricky Harrell faces animal cruelty charges. Harrell's step-dad says his son has drug and mental problems and needs help.

The preliminary hearing didn't happen because Harrell waived his right to one. His appearance in court lasted less than three minutes.

General Sessions Court Judge James Nidiffer called him to the stand just before 2 p.m. Nidiffer told Harrell and his attorney to report to criminal court on Jan. 27, and gave them a copy of the notice to appear.

Nidiffer warned the court that he would not tolerate any disturbances, and dismissed them. Dozens of animal rights activists left a few moments later.

"We're going to at least be here to show whoever walks through those doors, even if it is just the defendant, that we are not going to let this go," said Linda Dulin with the group Justice for Honey.

The state is pursuing this as a felony case and they were prepared to present evidence. Because Harrell waived today's hearing, that evidence will be presented to a Grand Jury - behind closed doors.

The last time the case was presented in court someone confronted Harrell's step-dad, but there were no instances this time. However, the "Justice for Honey" group was asked by sheriff's deputies to leave courthouse property.

They were gathered outside - some talking, some smoking, all of them wearing "Justice for Honey" t-shirts.

Sheriff Ed Graybeal said the protesters were not told to leave, only to avoid obstructing exits.
Source: - Dec 14, 2011
Update posted on Dec 15, 2011 - 12:35PM 
Dustin Harrell, the Johnson City man accused of torturing his family's 4-pound Yorkshire terrier to death, was appointed an attorney and told to get a job Monday by a Sessions Court judge. The judge later threatened to jail an angry spectator for disobeying his instructions to a crowd of about 30 animal activists who attended the court proceeding.

Harrell, 21, 1175 Old Stage Road, was charged with aggravated animal cruelty on Nov. 3 after his father called the Washington County Sheriff's Department and reported an "intentional killing of an animal."

According to WCSD Investigator J.A. Miller, during the investigation, Harrell described a four-hour period during which he alternately abused and comforted the dog, including repeatedly throwing the dog down a flight of stairs, repeatedly holding its head under water and finally placing it in a clothes dryer.

At his initial court appearance on Monday, Harrell told Sessions Court Judge James Nidiffer he could not afford an attorney and asked for a lawyer to be appointed for his defense. After reviewing Harrell's financial statement, Nidiffer questioned why he was not working and how he had made bond for his release from jail. Harrell said he was released on a bond secured by property and was looking for work. Nidiffer appointed the Public Defenders office to his case, telling Harrell, "I will appoint you an attorney but I expect you to pay for it. I expect you to get a job."

District Attorney General Tony Clark told Nidiffer his office was prosecuting the offense as a felony and is ready to proceed to a preliminary hearing at the earliest possible date. Nidiffer scheduled the hearing for Dec. 14.

Before closing the hearing, Nidiffer instructed a crowd of about 25 volunteers and supporters from the Bridge Home No-Kill Animal Rescue group in Kingsport, who attended the hearing to demonstrate support for penalties that show no tolerance for the abuse or neglect of animals, and others in the courtroom not to speak to Harrell or otherwise cause a disruption as he was attempting to talk to his lawyer outside the courtroom.

Disregarding Nidiffer's instructions, a man who said he was not affiliated with the rescue group, spoke discourteously to Harrell's father as Harrell and his attorney were entering a conference room. After being escorted to the exit by deputies, the man turned and made an obscene gesture toward the conference room. In response, WCSD Captain Larry Denny escorted the man back into the courtroom to address his actions with Nidiffer.

"Just mad about that boy killing that little dog," the man said when asked by Nidiffer why he had ignored his warning. Nidiffer asked Denny if he would charge the man with disorderly conduct and noted that as a judge he could fine him $50 and place him in jail for up 10 days for contempt of court. Denny said he would not arrest the man on the condition he tell others who attended the hearing about the consequences of his actions. Nidiffer told the man any repeat of his behavior would result in his immediate imprisonment.

Regina Isenberg, president of the nonprofit Bridge Home group, said that she had never met the man who caused the disturbance and that her group was only there to show support for the dog, Honey, and support for penalties that will better deter abuse and neglect of animals. "We're just here for the love of Honey," Isenberg said. "It's absolutely not to be tolerated, something like this."

Harrell's father, Ricky Harrell, who reported the dog's killing and later posted the property bond for his son's release from jail, said his concern is that his son receives help for problems including drug abuse and the impact of abuse he suffered as a child.

Ricky Harrell said he believes the pain his son suffered as a victim of child abuse and his use of drugs to mask that pain contributed to his abuse of the dog and to two previous criminal charges. Dustin Harrell was charged with domestic violence for threatening his father with a shotgun in April 2008 and with breaking items in their home in November 2009. "We've had our problems," Ricky Harrell said.

Harrell's 2008 domestic assault charge was dismissed in January 2009 upon his compliance with an agreement announced to the court and his November 2009 charge was dismissed in December 2009 after his father failed to appear in court as witness in that case.
Source: - Nov 28, 2011
Update posted on Nov 29, 2011 - 10:33PM 
More information about a 4-pound Yorkie's death is detailed in a court document charging a man with aggravated animal cruelty.

Dustin Ricky Harrell, 21, 1178 Old Stage Road, Jonesborough, was arraigned on the charge late Monday afternoon in Washington County Sessions Court. A court document details how Harrell allegedly repeatedly tortured, then comforted, the family dog named Honey. At one point during the torture, Harrell told investigators that he went to his computer to looked up "dog in the dryer" after he had put the Yorkie, named Honey, in the clothes dryer. An investigator said the torture occurred over a four-hour period.

The miniature dog's death was reported by Harrell's father on Nov. 3, apparently after he found the dog dead.

Harrell told Washington County Sheriff's Investigator Jeff Miller that he first threw the dog down the stairs at his house, then comforted it, then threw it down the stairs several more times.

"He later filled the bathtub up with water and held the dog under the water for approximately 20 seconds at a time" and did this three times, Miller wrote in the court record.

After the bathtub incident, Harrell said he dried the dog off with a towel, then put the dog in the clothes dryer " with nothing else in it " and turned the machine on for four minutes.

That's when Harrell told investigators he looked up "dog in the dryer" on the computer. After that, Harrell threw the dog down another time, which broke the Yorkie's leg.

That injury caused Honey to cry in pain, so Harrell used painter's tape around the dog's mouth to keep her quiet and used an Icy Hot sleeve on the dog's broken leg.

When the Yorkie stopped crying, Harrell told police he removed the tape and the dog began bleeding from the mouth. Harrell said he held Honey and she died in his arms.

When Harrell was arrested on Friday, he was given a $10,000 bond " the highest a court clerk was able to assign " but during his arraignment Monday, Judge James Nidiffer doubled the bond to $20,000.

Harrell is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Washington County Sessions Court.
Source: - Nov 21, 2011
Update posted on Nov 29, 2011 - 10:31PM 


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