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Richmond man charged with animal cruelty in case of Tommie, the pit bull set on fire in February
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Richmond man charged with animal cruelty in case of Tommie, the pit bull set on fire in February

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A 20-year-old Richmond man has been charged with animal cruelty in the death of a pit bull, named Tommie by rescuers, after the dog was tied to a fence and set on fire.

Jyahshua A. Hill, of the 1300 block of St. Peter Street, was arrested Monday by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force. He faces a felony charge that carries a punishment of up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

The dog, a male brindle, was found by units from the Richmond Fire Department in Abner Clay Park around 7:05 p.m. on Feb. 10. He had been tied to a chain-link fence and doused with a flammable liquid before being set ablaze, Richmond police said.

Tommie, the name Richmond Animal Care and Control staff gave the pup while they cared for him, had burns over 40 percent of his body. He made a brief recovery, but died five days after he was discovered in the park.

“His body simply gave out,” RACC posted to Facebook the morning the dog died.

The case sparked outrage and generosity from the public. T-shirts were made emblazoned with the viral hashtag #teamtommie.

A fund created to cover Tommie’s medical costs — and later, when it became clear that those bills would be surpassed, also devoted to providing emergency care for other animals in need — topped $25,000.

More than 6,000 people signed up to attend a public memorial service for Tommie held at the shelter.

“There are a lot of people to thank, but I’d like to single out all the citizens who contributed tips that pointed us in the right direction,” said interim Police Chief William C. Smith. “That, plus the excellent job done by arson investigators who did the bulk of the work, major crimes detectives, forensics technicians and animal control officers who all built a strong case to present to the grand jury.”

Hill, who lives in Gilpin Court just a few blocks north of the park where Tommie was found, was indicted by a multijurisdictional grand jury earlier this month.

He was arrested shortly before 3 p.m. Monday without incident, police said.

The commonwealth’s attorney’s office has assigned two attorneys to the case, according to police. One has expertise in arson cases and the other in animal cruelty prosecutions.

The General Assembly passed a law that goes into effect later this year that updated the animal cruelty code section, upgrading any charge from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony.

Because Tommie died, Hill was charged with a felony as an aggravating factor under the current law.

(804) 649-6527

Twitter: @AliRockettRTD

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