Man arrested for killing Tommie the dog: ‘I snapped’

RICHMOND, Va. -- The man charged for killing Tommie the dog said he "blacked out" and "snapped" after the dog bit his daughter.

Jyahshua A. Hill, 20, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force on May 20 and charged with felony animal cruelty following a months long investigation into the death of Tommie.

Tommie, who was named by his rescuers, was found tied to an Abner Clay Park fence and set on fire the night of February 10, 2019.

Tommie and Jyahshua A. Hill.

Tommie and Jyahshua A. Hill.

Hill spoke to CBS 6 by phone from his cell at the Richmond City Justice Center Friday.

Hill said he had owned the male brindle pit bull they named "Choo Choo" for several months. He claimed the dog had attacked several of his family members.

The suspect stated he tried to give the dog away to various shelters, but no one would take it in because the dog was deemed too vicious.

"The dog attacked my daughter and I snapped. I did what I had to do to protect my kids from the dog," Hill described.

Hill said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which caused him to become "blacked out." He stated he wasn't under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crime.

"I grabbed the dog, put a leash on it, saw the lighter fluid, grabbed it -- and me and the dog took off to [Abner] Clay park," Hill explained.

When asked why he did not simply let the dog go, Hill said he did not because it "would've attacked somebody else's kid."

RELATED: Lawmakers pass ‘Tommie’s Law’ to make animal cruelty charge a felony in Virginia

Hill's wife, who asked WTVR CBS 6 to conceal her identity because she said her family had received death threats, initially defended her husband after his arrest.

"It's time to stop living in that lie and tell it how it is," she said.

She originally said her husband was innocent, but now admits her husband set the dog on fire.

"Did he do it? Yeah, he did it," she said.  "Why did he do it? To protect his daughter, to protect his family."

She said at the time of crime she was hospitalized with complications during the pregnancy of her son, who was born a few weeks ago.

"He'll be home soon," she said. "I believe he will be home soon."

On June 6 a judge denied bond for Hill, who faces felony animal cruelty for a crime he said he regrets.

"I know what I did was wrong, and I'm sorry cause I took it that far, but I did what I had to do to protect my kid," Hill said.

CBS 6 reached out to Richmond Animal Care and Control about whether they had any contact with Hill in the past. The shelter officials wouldn't comment on a pending investigation, but said they deal with vicious animals everyday.

Tommie was treated at Virginia Veterinary Center on Cary Street, but died Feb. 15, five days after he was set on fire.

"The incident sparked widespread outrage," a Richmond Police spokesperson said. "Investigators are crediting an outpouring of information and assistance from the general public that helped them solve this crime."

A reward of up to $25,000 was offered for information in the case that led to an arrest and conviction.

Anyone with information to share about this case is asked to contact RFD Fire Investigator Lt. B. Dalrymple at 804 646-5421 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at http://www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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