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Tommie’s killer jerked pitbull violently, yelled ‘I’ll show you,’ attorney says

RICHMOND, Va. -- The man who admitted to killing Tommie the dog was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison.

Jyahshua Hill pleaded guilty to felony animal cruelty during a plea hearing at Richmond City Circuit Court.

Judge Phillip Hairston said sanity and competency evaluations came back negative and Hill was deemed competent to stand trail.

As a part of a plea deal, Hill received a maximum 5-year sentence, without the possibility of parole. He will have three years of post-release supervision by the court.

He was also banned from owning a companion animal for the rest of his life.

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.

Richmond Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Anderson stated surveillance cameras captured Hill walking the Brindle pitbull  five blocks from Gilpin Court to Abner Clay Park at about 7 p.m.

Anderson said he was jerking the dog violently, yelling and cursing: "You'll get yours" and "I'll show you."

Cameras showed Hill committing the crime while forensic and DNA evidence tied him to the crime, according to prosecutors.

A search warrant obtained to search Hill’s Facebook account referenced his attempts to get rid of or sell the dog with no success.

Hill 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.

Hill admitted to arresting officers to setting the dog on fire.

"We believe justice was served and it's definitely a victory for animal activists and Tommie's memory," Anderson said after the plea hearing. "The evidence was overwhelming."

She credited exhaustive investigation efforts by Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC), Richmond Police and Fire as well as the Commonwealth's Attorney Office.

Law enforcement hoped the plea agreement sends a message to residents.

"We don't play around and if you hurt an animal, at least in the City of Richmond, we will find you and hopefully be able to prosecute," RACC Director Christie Chipps Peters said outside the John Marshall Courthouse. "We are a voice for the animals and I think that the voice was loud and clear today."

Jyahshua Hill

Jyahshua Hill

'I knew what I did was wrong'

In June, Hill spoke to CBS 6 by phone. He said he owned the male brindle pitbull they named "Choo Choo" for several months.

Hill stated that he tried to give the dog away to various shelters, but no one would take the animal because he claimed 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 claimed that he had 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, seen the lighter fluid, grabbed it -- and me and the dog took off to Clay park," Hill explained. "I knew 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."

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

Messages to Hill's defense attorney Mufeed Said have not been returned.

Tommie

Tommie

Tommie's impact on Richmond and Virginia

The crime sparked widespread outrage and even led to Tommie’s Law, which increased the penalty for all animal cruelty to a class 6 felony -- a charge carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison or a $2,500 fine.

RACC Director Christie Chipps Peters said the crime has helped change a narrative among residents.

"There wasn't a real trust with the animal control field before. It was more of a dog catcher mentally of, 'Don't call animal control because they're going to catch my dog and kill it,'" she explained. "I think we have pivoted in a huge way of, 'Call animal control and we will save it.'"

Peters said tips about possible animal cruelty and neglect cases have more than doubled.

"We have people coming out of the woodwork ratting out their neighbors," Peters said.

Demand for more animal control officers have impacted how RACC will spend their dollars in the next fiscal year.

"We are putting into our budget additional officers because we can't keep up with the calls of people seeing something saying something that we didn't have before," Peters said.

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