A Powhatan County woman who killed her former boyfriend’s 10-month-old pit bull puppy by hanging it from a tree with an extension chord was sentenced Thursday to serve two years in prison.
In sentencing Yasmine Burton on her conviction of torturing an animal and causing its death, Powhatan Circuit Court Judge Paul Cella indicated that Burton did not seem to be a particularly mean person and noted her lack of a criminal record. However, the judge said the dog she killed, named Choppo, “suffered and died for no reason.”
Cella sentenced Burton, 23, to five years in prison with three years suspended, giving her two years to serve. The judge also ordered that Burton have no contact with any companion animals after her release.
“The defendant’s action in killing a 10-month-old puppy clearly manifests malice,” said Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Cerullo, who prosecuted the case. “But the way she did it by hanging the poor creature with an extension cord and watching as it struggled ... shows a cruelty that even as a prosecutor for 15 years and a police officer for 10 before that, I have rarely seen.”
Burton, who was tearful and visibly upset during Thursday’s sentencing hearing in Powhatan Circuit Court, apologized for her actions, saying she “prays for forgiveness every day.”
Burton attributed her behavior to a methamphetamine addiction, saying, “I thought things were happening that were not.” Burton added that she understood that punishment was required, “but I also need help.”
Burton, of the 4600 block of Bell Road, pleaded no contest on July 6 to killing the tan and white pit bull puppy. In exchange for her plea, Cerullo withdrew an accompanying charge of grand larceny against Burton for taking the animal from her boyfriend’s residence in Dinwiddie County.
According to a summary of evidence, Burton arrived at the Powhatan Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 22 to report that she had gone to her boyfriend’s home and found his dog, which she claimed appeared to be sick and vomiting.
Burton told a deputy that she took the dog to her home in Powhatan, where it died.
After being interviewed by the deputy — during which time she appeared visibly upset and gave odd answers — a second deputy was sent to Burton’s home, where they located the animal deceased in the backyard, Cerullo said.
The deputy noticed what appeared to be red marks around the animal’s neck, and during a subsequent interview, Burton admitted to killing the dog. She indicated that she was upset with her boyfriend because he “beat me” and “got me hooked on meth,” Cerullo told the court.
When asked how she killed the dog, Burton said she placed an extension cord around its neck and tied it to a tree. She kicked a chair out from under the dog and watched it hang. She then untied the dog and it fell to the ground, the prosecutor said.
A necropsy of Choppo’s remains revealed bite marks on the tongue and hemorrhage tissue around the trachea, which is consistent with strangulation.
Investigators seized an orange extension cord from Burton’s home that they believe was used to hang the dog.