Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19906
Classification: Hanging
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Drugs or alcohol involved
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Saturday, Apr 6, 2013

County: Polk

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Sheena Cornwell

A Des Moines woman hanged her boyfriend's dog by its collar and leash from a rafter in the garage because the pit bull mix was old and sick, she allegedly told police Saturday.

Sheena Cornwell, 28, is charged with animal torture. Her boyfriend found the dog when he arrived at their northwest-side house a little after 5 p.m. Saturday and called police, said Officer Greg Catron.

"She did not appear to be remorseful. She said she saw nothing wrong with her actions," Catron said. "She didn't think there was anything wrong with the way she put this dog to death."

The dog's name was Lily, although that spelling wasn't confirmed, and police estimated she was 13 or 14 years old.

There had been three dogs at the house, all belonging to her boyfriend, Joshua Van Dyke, 32. Cornwell told police that Lily had been annoying the other two.

Van Dyke and Cornwell have lived together for about two years, Catron said. Van Dyke told police he would like a restraining order. He could not immediately be located to comment Saturday night.

"The boyfriend was very upset about the incident," Catron said.

"This is the first time I've seen a dog strung up like that. The dog deserved better than that."

Police said Cornwell was under the influence of alcohol when she was taken into custody. She said the dog tried to bite her as she was hanging her.

Cornwell was released from the Polk County Jail about two hours after being booked Saturday. A phone listing for her was disconnected. It was not immediately known whether she had an attorney.

An autopsy will be performed. The Animal Rescue League of Iowa took the body, police said.

A search of online court records showed no animal-related criminal charges in Cornwell's past. She was convicted in 2006 of operating while intoxicated and in 2008 of a disorderly house violation.

Under Iowa law, a person commits animal torture by inflicting "severe physical pain with a depraved or sadistic intent to cause prolonged suffering or death" upon an animal. Those guilty of animal torture must undergo a psychological evaluation and treatment and perform community service.

A first offense is an aggravated misdemeanor, normally punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison.

Becky Fetters of the St. Francis Foundation for Pets, a local animal welfare group, said she was following the case.

"We will be following this case and seeing it through with the prosecuting attorney," Fetters said. "We would like to see that she is charged with animal torture and serves jail time."


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