YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Shaking and talking in a halting voice Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, a humane agent with Animal Charity described the injuries an 18-month-old dog suffered when he was dragged along an East Side street in May.
Speaking before Judge John Durkin during a sentencing hearing for Mechelle Kelly, 56, Jessica MacMurchy said Oreo, the mixed breed dog who a motorist spotted May 29 being dragged behind a car on Jacobs Road, had severe burns to his paws, lost almost all his nails and left blood and skin on the pavement.
MacMurchy had to pause a few times and her hands were shaking when she showed the judge pictures of Oreo’s injuries.
“This one was upsetting,” MacMurchy said.
Judge Durkin sentenced Kelly to 30 days in jail and two years of probation. She is being credited for one day already served on a fifth-degree felony charge of cruelty to companion animals. She pleaded guilty to the charge Nov. 11.
Kelly was indicted by a grand jury in June, after an investigation by Animal Charity.
Kelly was arrested after a motorist spotted something being dragged behind a car she was driving. The motorist turned around and discovered it was a dog that was being dragged.
The motorist called police and took pictures of Oreo and Kelly. Assistant Prosecutor Joe Maxin told the judge Kelly had retrieved Oreo after he had run away and was taking him home when the passing motorist spotted them.
MacMurchy said when she arrived the dog could not stand.
“All she had to do was put the dog in the car and spare him any pain or unnecessary suffering,” MacMurchy said.
Defense attorney Ronald Knickerbocker told the judge Kelly did not mean to drag the dog.
“She said she didn’t realize the rope was wrapped around her bumper,” Knickerbocker said.
Kelly has also agreed to not own any more animals, and Knickerbocker also noted his client’s mental health issues.
Kelly, who was in a wheelchair, said in a raspy voice that it was difficult to understand at times that she was holding onto a rope that Oreo was tied to when the rope slipped out of her hand, and somehow the rope became attached to her bumper.
Kelly said she loved the dog and was caring for him because a friend could no longer care for Oreo. She also disputed statements she was driving 35 miles per hour.
“I am so sorry,” she said through tears. “I would never hurt dogs. I love dogs.”
Judge Durkin said he didn’t care how fast Kelly was driving.
“You drove fast enough and far enough to cause these injuries,” Judge Durkin said.
Judge Durkin said he was puzzled as to why Kelly simply didn’t pick the dog up and put him in her car. Kelly said she could not pick the dog up because of a medical condition. When the judge was told there was a passenger in the car, Kelly said the passenger, a relative, was not with her when she found Oreo.
The judge said Kelly should have waited for help.
“Somehow, someway, you should have put the dog in your car,” Judge Durkin said.
The judge said Kelly’s history of PTSD and substance abuse stemming from years of abuse dating back to her childhood make her case a difficult one, although they do not excuse her actions, he added.
A presentence report in the case did recommend probation. Judge Durkin noted the state Department of Corrections recommends people who have cases like Kelly’s should not be sent to prison.
A jail sentence is necessary, however, because of the suffering Oreo had to endure, the judge said.
MacMurchy said Oreo has recovered from his injuries and has been adopted.
Kelly must continue mental health counseling as part of her probation when she is released from jail.