A Corryton man has been charged with killing two neighborhood dogs on Thanksgiving morning and faces two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.
Billy C. Mounger Jr. is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Feb. 23 in Criminal Sessions Court. Unlike a “simple” animal cruelty case, which is a misdemeanor, aggravated cruelty is a Class E felony, punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.
“We don’t see a lot of these cases,” said Sean McDermott, public information officer with the Knox County District Attorney General’s office. “We only had one case brought last year in criminal court.”
That’s because law defines aggravated cruelty as an act committed “in a depraved and sadistic manner,” which creates a high threshold for the prosecution to prove. The case brought last year is scheduled for trial in March.
Jethro and JuJu belonged to Frances Thompson and her husband, Eric Schafferman. Thompson sounded the alert on her Facebook page Thanksgiving Day after the dogs didn’t return from their morning run.
“Jethro (blond) and Juju (black) are missing from the Wood Road area in Gibbs/Corryton. Left home Thanksgiving morning without breakfast. Both are friendly and have collars with names and our phone number. Please call or message me if you have seen them. Please share.”
The warrant says that Mounger shot the dogs “with aggravated cruelty and no justifiable purpose,” dragged their bodies out of the woods, loaded them into his pickup truck and drove to Irwin Road and dumped them. When found, their collars had been removed.
Mounger also was charged with violating a state law requiring “big game” hunters to wear daylight fluorescent orange.
Jethro, whom Thompson describes as a big, goofy Lab/boxer mix, had lived with the family for a year. Juju, who was black with a notch bitten out of one of her big pointy ears, was adopted from a friend who could no longer give her the attention she needed. There were two other dogs in the household, as well.
“This broke our hearts,” Thompson said. “It broke our hearts.
“Eric and I both just sort of held each other and cried for a long time. He goes into a shell and gets real quiet. I cried every night. Jethro’s probably the most joy-bringing dog we ever had.”
McDermott said his office sees three or four misdemeanor cases of animal cruelty per week in Sessions Court. Most of the cases involve dogs, followed closely by horses. Cats come in third, and are typically victims of hoarding situations.
Under a state law that went into effect last year, the names of those convicted of aggravated animal abuse will be recorded on a registry, and will remain there for two years.