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Judge to decide fate of Virginia man who shot, killed neighbor’s service dog

Crystal Graham
Joeseph Sande with Bear
Joeseph Sande with Bear, submitted

A judge will decide the fate of an Augusta County man who pleaded no contest today to a felony charge of animal cruelty for shooting and killing a neighbor’s service dog, Buddy Bear.

Louis Edward Davis Jr., 67, will not face a judge trial or jury trial after the plea this afternoon in Augusta County Circuit Court.

A sentencing hearing for Davis will be held on June 5 at 9:45 a.m.

The sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of a Class 6 animal cruelty felony in Virginia range from one to five years in prison and a fine up to $2,500.

Buddy Bear was allegedly shot by Davis on Sept. 15 in the Cherry Orchard subdivision of Augusta County. Davis was indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 22.

Due to the circumstances and death of not just a pet, but a service dog, this case is rare and doesn’t necessarily have traditional sentencing guidelines, according to Augusta County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kyle Powers, who is prosecuting the case. He said it is called a non-guidelines offense, which means there aren’t enough statistics or similar cases to create a guideline.

Powers said Davis did not plea related to the misdemeanor charge of reckless handling of a firearm on Wednesday. Powers said his office will likely drop this charge ahead of sentencing.

Any punitive damages awarded and/or jail sentence will be determined by the judge at the hearing this summer, Powers said. While no evidence will be presented at the hearing, the Commonwealth’s Attorney will be able to introduce how this killing affected the owner, neighbors and the community.

The felony conviction ultimately means Davis will no longer be able possess firearms, Powers said.

At the plea hearing today, Davis’ attorney asked the judge to lift a bond condition that requires Davis to reside at an alternate address through the duration of the trial and not allow him to return to his home. The Commonwealth objected, Powers said, and the judge denied the request.

“I’m happy that he’s taking responsibility,” said Joeseph Sande, the dog’s owner, who had only moved to Virginia weeks before the deadly shooting. “That doesn’t change my opinion of wanting him to go away for the maximum time, because he killed my best friend.”

Sande said justice in this case involves not only the maximum sentence of five years, but since there is no way to bring Buddy Bear back, they’d also like compensation for the training of a new service dog. Sande is a military vet with service in Afghanistan, Bagram, Kuwait and Iraq. Buddy Bear helped remind Sande when to take his medication and helped him with night terrors and flashbacks related to his service. Since Buddy Bear’s death, Joeseph’s wife, Edith, has had to step in to a bigger caregiver role for him.

“He (Buddy Bear) was our best friend, but also, he was a member of our family,” Edith Sande told AFP Wednesday afternoon. “It’s great to see things are moving in a positive direction … we just hope justice is served.”

buddy bear
Joeseph and Edith Sande, with Bear and Hazel (submitted)

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.