Oak Harbor police repeatedly interviewed witnesses, dug up a shallow grave near a public beach and had a necropsy performed following a report of a suspicious dog death last fall, according to court documents.
As a result of the investigation, Island County prosecutors charged an Oak Harbor man, 26-year-old Dwight D. Hill, with animal cruelty in the first degree this week. If convicted of the charge, he could face up to a year in jail under the standard sentencing range.
The investigation began Sept. 2 after a resident of an apartment complex reported hearing a dog yelp in Hill’s apartment; the resident also reported overhearing a subsequent conversation Hill had with his girlfriend and then seeing the dead dog being carried away, according to police reports on the incident.
Oak Harbor police took the case very seriously, with at least three officers writing reports on the investigation, court documents show. The reports indicate that police had responded to a previous report of the dog, named Lady, being abused, but no evidence was found.
Hill told investigators that he came home from work to find Lady had escaped from her crate and chewed on his girlfriend’s leather purse; he said he later found the dog dead and thought it was from something she had eaten.
Hill and his girlfriend showed the police the spot in a beach area on Bayshore Drive where they had buried the dog. After measuring the site, the officers carefully exhumed the dog’s body and brought it to an experienced veterinary technician for a necropsy.
The technician found that the dog died from blunt force trauma to the liver, causing massive internal bleeding.
The dog likely would have died within three hours and would have been in a great deal of pain, the report states.
In a follow-up interview, Hill told an officer that he was “too aggressive” in putting Lady in her crate and didn’t mean to hurt her, the report states.
Felony animal abuse cases are relatively unusual on Whidbey Island, with some notable exceptions.
About three years ago, Coupeville resident Jonathan Rasmussen pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in the second degree and unlawful possession of a firearm for repeatedly striking a dog with a pickaxe and then shooting it. He received an exceptional sentence of 12 months and a day in prison.
In 2017, a Clinton man pleaded guilty to two counts of animal cruelty for crushing a fawn’s pelvis with his bare hands and shooting a doe with a pellet gun because he was upset about the animals eating his apples; he was sentenced to three months in jail.
In 2015, a North Whidbey woman was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty for allegedly letting her horses starve.