Susie’s Law Tested
This coming Wednesday, March 2, 2011, North Carolina’s “Susie’s Law” will be tested with the court appearance of Jimmy L Spears, Jr of Yanceyville, NC. Spears was charged with three felony counts on January 24 when three dogs were found on his property chained and huddled together in a dog house. All dead. They died of starvation.
There was not much in the news about this case. In fact, I can find only one small blurb from January 25 regarding his arrest. No more details were available. It wasn’t until this Opinion letter was found in The Caswell Messenger on February 22 urging people to become involved to make sure Spears is tried, convicted, and sentenced in accordance with Susie’s Law.
…on January 24th three felony warrants for arrest were issued for Mr. Spears. Each warrant states in part, “the defendant named above unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did maliciously cause to be killed an animal by intentional deprivation of necessary sustenance, by NOT PROVIDING FOOD AND WATER WHILE BEING CHAINED.” The details of how the crime was discovered are not clear. Both the sheriff’s office and animal control were called to the scene and the sheriff’s deputy made a report. The animal shelter staff took photos of the dogs when they were brought in. Their condition was shocking and heartbreaking. The suffering they endured had to have been intense and for a long period of time, at least weeks if not months. All three dogs were found dead, chained and huddled together in the same doghouse.
However, despite invoking the new law, there is something crucial missing in the handling of the Spears case and that is, no one seems to know about it. As I already stated, there have been no reports in the newspapers covering the details. Susie’s Law will be helpful to allow justice in this case, and any others like it that come to court in Caswell. But equally important is getting the knowledge of this case out to the public. We need people to be informed in order to make serious changes in our county.
You would think that the first Susie’s Law case in this area of North Carolina would receive an enormous amount of press, but it seems to be a non-issue to those who decide the news.
Susie’s Law is named for Susie, a puppy that was beaten and burned and left for dead by 21-year-old LaShawn Whitehead in August 2009. Using a barbecue lighter to drip lighter fluid over the dog’s body, LaShawn Whitehead beat her viciously and set her on fire with a match. The dog ran off and was found two weeks later in Greenfield Park by a man walking his dogs.
She was near death with second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body, with a broken jaw and teeth, ears burned off and covered with maggots.
He pled guilty to a charge of burning personal property – the dog – and got a sentence of probation, with a suspended sentence four to five months in prison. That’s it. That’s what he got for a Class I felony of Cruelty to Animals.
Outraged citizens embarked on a statewide campaign to get the sentences toughened. It was fast-tracked through the North Carolina State Senate and the House of Representatives and reclassifies the “malicious abuse, torture or killing” of an animal as a Class H felony. In addition, Susie’s Law also makes it a higher-level felony for intentional starvation of an animal.
On June 24, 2010, with Susie looking on, North Carolina’s Governor Bev Perdue signed Susie’s Law which went into effect December 1, 2010. Now with Susie’s Law, there are serious penalties ahead for animal abusers. The new law will make malicious abuse or torture of animals punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. Even for first time offenders.
Don’t let Jimmy Spears get away with a slap on the wrist and a promise to be a good boy. He needs to be nailed to cross hard by the penalties under Susie’s Law. Let it be known by sending your polite emails to the Caswell County District Attorney Wallace Bradsher. Let him know that everyone, not only North Carolina, is watching what will happen with the Caswell County’s first animal abuse case under Susie’s Law.
Caswell Co. Courthouse
Yanceyville, NC 27379
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