Sharon Diane Finley, 56, an apartment manager who said she loves animals, will have to serve at least four years in prison after her conviction on an animal cruelty charge.
Prosecutors Robert Moody and Ryan Bownds asked the 54th State District Court jury of eight women and four men to give Finley a maximum 10-year prison term, saying she has had plenty of time to change her behavior throughout her lengthy criminal history that dates back to 1980 and runs through last year.
It still isn’t clear just how the Siberian husky known as Thor was killed.
Prosecution witnesses said he died from a stab or puncture wound to the side, while Finley and two defense witnesses said he was struck by a car on U.S. Highway 84 near Bellmead.
What is clear from the two-day trial is Thor and another husky named Loki belonged to Whitney and Matthew Daniels and that Thor died in Finley’s custody after she picked up both dogs near the Daniels’ home on Riverview Road near Downsville.
When deputies confronted Finley about the dogs, they found blood covering the back seat of Finley’s car and a folding pocket knife with blood and dog hair on it.
Witnesses spotted Finley picking up the dogs and putting them into her car in December 2015 and then coming back about 90 minutes later and dumping Thor’s body in a ditch at South Third Street and Riverview Road. Loki, who was in the car, jumped out and ran back home.
Whitney Daniels cried Wednesday during her testimony in the punishment phase of the trial, telling the jury Thor, a rescued dog, had become a valued member of her family and that they and Loki miss him very much.
“He wasn’t just an animal,” she said. “He basically became part of our family really quick. He was basically like one of my sons.”
After Whitney Daniels’ testimony, she sat in the back of the courtroom to watch the completion of the trial. During a break between witnesses, Finley turned to her and said, “I’m sorry,” making Daniels cry again. A deputy admonished Finley and told her to face the front of the courtroom.
After the trial was over, Whitney Daniels said she thinks Finley should have gotten 10 years in prison, but said no amount of time would bring back Thor.
Daniels’ husband, Matthew, testified Tuesday that his family was going to a movie that day and left the two dogs tethered to 30-foot cables in the front yard.
Whitney Daniels said after the trial Wednesday that she thinks Finley saw her dogs, came into their yard and stole them.
Finley, who testified Tuesday, 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.
Finley did not testify Wednesday, but four of her friends and her aunt all testified that she is a kind, caring person who loves animals and who goes out of her way to help others. They said she takes better care of her six dogs and horses than she does herself.
Most of them, however, said they were not familiar with Finley’s extensive criminal record and agreed with prosecutors that there is another side to Finley that she had not shown them.
Finley’s attorney, Phil Martinez, asked the jury for the minimum, two-year prison term.
The prosecutors presented evidence showing Finley has felony convictions for credit card abuse and forgery and misdemeanor convictions for terroristic threat, reckless driving, two DWIs, driving while license suspended, three criminal trespass convictions, driving while license invalid, making a false report to police, assault and evading police.
(Waco Tribune - Nov 30, 2016)