WHEELING - Anthony Doyle unexpectedly pleaded guilty Friday to beating an 8-pound dog to death at a home on Wheeling Island in August.
Parties gathered in Ohio County Circuit Court to address pretrial motions in front of Judge James Mazzone. After meeting briefly with his attorney, Chris Scheetz, behind closed doors, however, Doyle opted to accept a plea agreement from the prosecution and plead guilty to two counts of animal cruelty.
Doyle will face a maximum prison term of two to 10 years when he appears at a sentencing hearing, scheduled for March 20. As a part of the agreement, if Mazzone sentences Doyle to the maximum, the prosecution will recommend to the West Virginia Parole Board that Doyle be paroled after serving two years of his sentence.
Photo by Tyler Reynard
Anthony Doyle sits next to his attorney, Chris Scheetz, during a hearing in Ohio County Circuit Court on Friday.
Ohio County Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak on Friday contended that Doyle pummelled the 18-month-old Shih Tzu the night of Aug. 5 until it succumbed to the trauma Doyle inflicted. A neighbor told police she heard the dog crying before she saw Doyle beating the animal on the back porch of a South Wabash Street residence.
An autopsy report states the dog died of "blunt force trauma to the head and chest, exhaustion, suffocation, fear and anxiety."
Doyle denied Turak's account of the crime but acknowledged he was heavily intoxicated at the time and remembers little. He was staying at the South Wabash Street residence with Jill McPherson, the dog's owner. McPherson was at work the night of the crime.
Because the plea was unexpected, McPherson was absent from the courtroom Friday. She appeared at previous hearings wearing a T-shirt displaying the dog's picture and the message "Justice For Toby." Turak expects McPherson to be present during the sentencing hearing.