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Man throws dog into traffic, killing it

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Old story but one that I remember reading about...


Summary, woman accidentally bumped into the back of a mans car, he gets out, grabs the womans dog and throws the dog into the middle of traffic, where the dog gets run over and dies as a result. He then got into his car and took off...




SAN JOSE, April 2, 2000

Big Reward In Road Rage Dog Killing

Reward For Missing Girl In Same Area Is $15,000


Despite dozens of leads and a feature on Oprah Winfrey's talk show last week, there have been no breaks in the road rage case of a dog that was snatched from his owner's car and hurled into oncoming traffic.


A reward fund has grown to $110,000 for the arrest and conviction of the mysterious man who killed Leo, Sara McBurnett's beloved bichon frise.


CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports that when McBurnett bumped a car near the San Jose Airport on Feb. 11, the other driver grabbed Leo and threw him into traffic.


McBurnett says "The last thing to cross my mind was for someone to attack my dog that way-when they were angry with me."


Leo had been McBurnett's companion for 10 years. She says, "I don’t think it would have hurt any less had I been the one who was run over."


While donations to the reward fund have quickly topped $100,000, the reward fund for an 8-year-old girl missing in the same area sits at just $15,000.


That worries Marc Klass, an advocate for missing children. He says, ”For some perverse reason we’re more invested in the animal issue than the child issue."


But Sara McBurnett, who now has a new pup, Stormy, says only those with pets can understand how a dog touches your heart.


McBurnett went on the Oprah Winfrey show on Wednesday. Police have received about 80 tips since then.


"There are two or three that look kind of good," said Sgt. Steve Dixon. "But most of them are probably things that aren't going to pan out."


McBurnett, 38, says she's frustrated by the lack of action in the case but she knows police have other pressing matters


"I understand their position," she said. "Maybe it's time I take some responsibility for seeing it move forward."


The suspect faces possible felony charges for animal cruelty.




SAN JOSE, Calif., June 19, 2001

Road Rage Dog Killer Found Guilty

The Victim Was 'Leo', A 19-Pound Bichon Frise


A former telephone repairman who threw a fluffy white dog to its death in traffic was convicted Tuesday of felony animal cruelty charges.


Andrew Burnett, 27, faces three years in prison for killing Leo, the beloved 19-pound bichon frise of Sara McBurnett, near the San Jose airport in February 2000.


The road rage case shocked the public. Dog lovers and others donated $120,000 to find Leo's killer — more than the reward fund in several local missing child cases.


"It doesn't bring Leo back but at least Leo had his day," McBurnett said Tuesday morning after the verdict. "One cruel person has been accountable for their cruelty."


Burnett sat motionless as the verdict was read in a courtroom teeming with onlookers and media. McBurnett, seated near the back of the courtroom, held a friend's hand tightly and nodded.


The jury deliberated for less than an hour. Sentencing is scheduled July 13.


McBurnett and other witnesses testified that Burnett walked briskly back to her car after a rainy-day fender bender, yelled, reached in through her window, grabbed Leo from her lap and threw him into oncoming traffic.


Burnett never took the stand in his own defense, but his lawyer said he grabbed the dog because it bit him on the hand. That defense strategy clearly backfired, prosecutor Troy Benson said.


"Andrew Burnett is the only person in the whole world who would think this was reasonable," Benson said after the verdict.


McBurnett's frequent appearances on national television kept the pressure on beleaguered local police.


"The entire nation and the world were so outraged by this," Benson said.


McBurnett said she was relieved and satisfied. She plans to testify again at Burnett's sentencing.


"It wasn't just a dog to me," she said. "For me it was my child. He killed my baby right in front of me."


She said that after Leo died, she had him cremated and spread his ashes along the shore of Lake Tahoe.


Burnett's attorney, Marc Garcia, said his client instinctively snatched the dog from the car after it bit him.


"We were optimistic when this trial began that the court of public opinion would be checked at the door," Garcia said.


But, he said, that was not the case.


"The deck was so stacked against him in this case from day one," Garcia said.




Road-rage dog killer guilty / Defendant faces prison for flinging bichon frise Leo into traffic

June 20, 2001|By Alan Gathright, Chronicle Staff Writer


A San Jose jury took only 40 minutes yesterday to convict Andrew Douglas Burnett of flinging Leo the dog to his death in a road-rage case that sparked a global animal cruelty debate.


The bespectacled former telephone repairman blinked and stared calmly as each member of the eight-woman, four-man jury confirmed the felony animal cruelty verdict that could send him to prison for up to three years. Santa Clara County Superior Court Kevin J. Murphy scheduled sentencing for July 13.


Since Burnett snatched the small, fluffy bichon frise from its owner's car and hurled it into the street last year during a fender-bender beef, the case has fueled outrage by pet lovers who raised a $120,000 reward and criticism from others who carped about society's misplaced priorities.


Even some law enforcement officials privately complained that the "Poodle Boy" case -- as they dubbed it -- had garnered far greater attention than the trial of a Central Valley serial killer suspected in 26 slayings. That case drew a mere $20,000 reward.


Yet, for Leo's owner, Sara McBurnett, the case was simply about ensuring that a "cowardly sadist" with a history of animal cruelty received justice.


"He killed my baby right in front of me," said McBurnett, who hugged prosecutor Troy Benson and lead Santa Clara police investigator Phil Zaragoza after the verdict. "The public can ridicule me for considering Leo my child, I don't care.


"I think Abraham Lincoln said you can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."


By that standard, she said, Burnett is "just a coward. He's absolutely cruel. He shows no remorse for his act. He still thinks he did no wrong and that's the scary thing."


Burnett's fiancee, Jackie Figgins, stood by her man.


"Andrew Burnett is a loving, very sweet man who would do anything for anybody. He's not at all the kind of demon person that Troy Benson and Phil Zaragoza make him out to be.


"He feels very bad for Sara McBurnett, because the dog died," Figgins said. She noted that Burnett planned to tell "the true story" soon in a TV news interview.


Defense attorney Marc Garcia confirmed that Burnett, 27, has already taped an interview with ABC's "PrimeTime" that is expected to air soon.


Jurors refused to discuss their decision, but animal protection groups called the verdict a victory that "raised awareness of animal cruelty for people all over the world," said Marcia Mayeda, outreach director for the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley.


"I hope the attention this case got -- and the public outcry -- reminds everybody in law enforcement and the judiciary that the public takes animal cruelty very seriously," Mayeda said. Her group's board will meet with law enforcement officials tonight to decide which of the many witnesses in the case earned a portion of the $120,000 reward.


The verdict was a swift end to a roller coaster two-week trial, which began with the defense attorney's stunning admission during opening statements that Burnett was the man in the black SUV who had pulled Leo from his owner's lap after McBurnett tapped his bumper on a rainy night outside the San Jose airport.


Garcia promised that Burnett would testify that he reflexively dropped Leo on the road after the dog bit him and the bichon then scampered across the road and under the wheels of a passing car.


But Garcia scrapped calling Burnett to the stand after the judge ruled Thursday that if the defendant testified Leo's death was accidental, prosecutors could summon witnesses who would testify that, when Burnett was a Navy sentry six years ago, he clubbed to death a crippled dog that other sailors adopted as a mascot.


Garcia has faced criticism from some in the legal community for telling the jury he'd put his client on the stand before he heard the prosecution's case and for admitting Burnett was the man who grabbed the dog when witnesses failed to pick him from a photo lineup.


But the attorney said it was a foregone conclusion that prosecutors could place Burnett at the scene, because the defendant's cousin testified he had picked her up at the airport that night.


Garcia rejected as repugnant the "Monday-morning quarterbacking" of critics suggesting that he should have fueled jurors' doubts about whether Burnett was indeed Leo's killer. "To proffer a defense that would essentially have been a lie is not only unethical, it is something that is impermissible. I wouldn't do it," he said.


Garcia said the defense was hampered by police investigators' discovery, after the trial began, of the earlier dog beating and the judge's ruling that prosecutors could raise the Puerto Rico incident if Burnett claimed he unintentionally dropped Leo when the dog bit him.


Garcia said the judge's ruling "left a bad taste in our mouths," because the defense maintained the Navy incident was based on hearsay accounts and that no eyewitness had been found who had seen Burnett club the disabled stray dog to death.


Burnett remains in Santa Clara County jail on $455,000 bail in connection with the Leo case and unrelated charges, including the alleged theft of a Pacific Bell van and felony possession of a weapon -- a knifelike "shank" crafted from a sharpened plastic comb, which a correctional officer reportedly found under the mattress of Burnett's cell bunk.

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