Jurors in Waco’s 54th State District Court deliberated about 90 minutes before finding Sharon Diane Finley, 56, guilty and determining she used a deadly weapon to kill the husky called Thor before dumping his body near Riverview Road and South Third Street.
The punishment phase of the trial starts Wednesday morning. The jury’s deadly weapon finding bumps the crime from a state-jail felony to a third-degree felony.
Finley, who has felony convictions for credit card abuse and forgery and a handful of misdemeanor convictions, is not eligible for probation and faces from two to 10 years in prison.
While prosecutors Robert Moody and Ryan Bownds acknowledged to the jury in summations they don’t know exactly how the dog died, they said two things are clear: Finley didn’t have permission from the owners to take the dogs, and Thor would still be alive if she had not.
Deputies found a pocketknife with blood and dog hair on it and an ice pick in the bloodstained back seat of Finley’s car. However, the dog was not examined by a veterinarian after his death, and it remains undetermined how the wound was inflicted.
Finley’s attorney, Phil Martinez, told the jury that prosecutors did not meet their burden of proof in the case, that there are still too many unanswered questions and that Thor’s death was the result of a “horrible accident.”
Finley testified that she and her mother, who lives on Honey Lane near the Brazos River, had run some errands and she had dropped her mother off at home when she saw Thor and Loki running across the road.
Finley said she has six rescue dogs of her own and works with animal shelters because of her love for animals. She said she stopped to get the dogs and put them into her car so she could try to find out who their owners are.
The dogs’ owner, Matthew Daniels, testified that he and his children were going to a movie that day and left the dogs where they normally are, tethered to 30-foot cables in the front yard of their home.
Finley denied taking the dogs off the cables and said she feared they would be hurt because they were running in the roadway. She said she knocked on the door of a home to ask about the dogs’ owners, but no one was home.
She said she drove to a friend’s home near Bellmead and was going to ask him if the dogs could stay there until she found the owners. When she stopped, the dogs jumped from the car and ran across U.S. Highway 84. One of the dogs started chasing a horse, while Finley and two women, who also work with animal rescue centers and who stopped their car to help, tried to get the dogs back in the car.
While the women ran to one side of the highway, the dogs crossed back and ran back toward the car, Finley and the two women testified.
When they got back to the car, the women spotted Thor lying on the shoulder of the road with blood coming from his mouth and nose. None of the women said they saw him get hit by a car, but all testified they assumed that is what happened.
The two women led Finley in their car to an emergency animal hospital off Interstate 35 south of Waco, but Thor was dead by the time they got there, Finley said.
“It made me very upset. I am an animal lover and I was very upset,” Finley said.
The women, Kathy Craver and Barbara Roscher, both told the jury they did not see a puncture wound on Thor’s side and that there was no blood in the back seat of Finley’s car when they helped load the dog.
Finley said she drove back to Riverview Road and put Thor’s body in a ditch, hoping his owners would come along and bury him. She said she intended to come back the next day with plans to bury him if his body was still there.
“I bury all my dogs, and I thought whoever owned it would want to bury it,” she said.
Finley denied she stabbed the dog with the knife or ice pick in her car.
“I rescue dogs. That’s what I do. I couldn’t believe they were arresting me for animal abuse,” Finley said.
McLennan County Sheriff’s Deputy Glenn Kennedy said he asked Finley about the blood in the back seat of her car, and she said she didn’t know what he was talking about.
“There was a lot of blood,” Kennedy said. “Whatever had taken place in the back seat of that car was gruesome. There was a lot of blood and hair.”
He said he suspected Finley was impaired by alcohol when he spoke to her and that she became belligerent and verbally abusive as he took her to jail.
(Waco Tribune - Nov 29, 2016)