The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

March 7, 2012

New Waverly man gets max for shooting war hero’s dog

HUNTSVILLE — A New Waverly man will spend the next two years in a state jail facility for his role in the shooting death of a local war hero’s dog in 2009.

Alfonso Hernandez, 27, was given the maximum sentence for the state-jail felony charge of cruelty to non-live stock animals by visiting Judge Jerry Winfree on Wednesday and fined $1,000. Hernandez was found guilty of the crime by a Walker County jury in December.

Co-defendant Michael John Edmonds, 24, was sentenced to five years probation and fined $1,000 for the same offense. He admitted to shooting former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s service dog DASY on April 1, 2009, but pleaded guilty and testified against Hernandez in December.

“I want to compliment (assistant district attorneys) Stephanie Stroud and John Hafley for the job they did trying the case,” District Attorney David Weeks said. “We were confident in the verdict and the sentencing and glad that the judge took everything into consideration, including the fact that Mr. Edmonds took responsibility for his actions.”

During sentencing Wednesday, the state called several witnesses to testify, including Luttrell, who is best known as being the lone survivor of a mission in June 2005 in which his SEAL team was pinned down in a firefight with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Luttrell, a Navy Cross recipient, was given DASY to help him cope with emotional and physical injuries he sustained while fighting in the war.

In the early morning hours of April 1, 2009, Edmonds and Hernandez were riding in a car on Four Notch Road in southeast Walker County when Edmonds shot DASY as she chased the vehicle. Edmonds testified that Hernandez got out of the car beat the animal with a bat.

Luttrell, who helped law enforcement detain Edmonds and Hernandez after a high-speed chase the night of the shooting, testified that he was “still pretty upset” about the incident and that he felt both should have gotten the maximum sentence.

“It took a lot out of me — away from me,” he said. “It was like losing a part of my family.”

Luttrell’s mother, Holly, and two others also took the stand to tell the judge how much the loss of DASY, a Labrador retriever whose name was an acronym of the initials of Luttrell’s team members who were killed in the firefight, meant to him.

Holly Luttrell said that Marcus was doing well in his recovery, but took a step back when DASY was killed.

“It sent him back to one-word answers, even to me,” she said. “I would be lucky to get one word out of him. ... Animals bring us peace and this brought hell back to my door.”

Edmonds testified Wednesday that he had changed a lot since the incident. At the time he said he was a kid who made bad decisions because he was trying to fit in since his parents were going through a divorce.

He said he had it “rough” and was hanging out with the wrong people. He said he was an “ignorant kid” who was angry that he caused so much pain to Luttrell.

Edmonds said that now he is a man who only wants to provide for his infant son and fiancé.

“My whole demeanor has changed. I have a family,” Edmonds said. “I work all the time because I am their provider. My child has changed my life — made me a man.”

Edmonds was sentenced to two years in a state jail facility but it was suspended to five years of probation. As terms of his community supervision, he has to pay restitution for the monetary loss of DASY, meet all standard requirements of probation and pay $60 a month to the Walker County Department of Community Supervision.

He must also remain in Williamson County, were he now resides, unless given permission to leave, but he was granted a travel pass for work. If he does not comply with the terms of his probation, Edmonds will go to jail for two years.

“My heart goes out to Marcus because he deserves peace and has had way too much going on in his life,” said Bryan Cantrell, Edmond’s defense attorney. “Believe me, my clients heart was broken when he found out what he did to an American hero.

“We are grateful that the judge took to heart that my client told the truth and the whole truth. I think what my client learned and what I hope the community learns is that when you do the wrong thing and do everything right from then that you get a little mercy. And we did. We got a lot of mercy, a lot more than my client thinks he even deserves.”

Maria Hernandez testified Wednesday on her son Alfonso’s behalf. She said he was a good kid and that he and his sister were her primary caretakers when she had to recover from brain surgery.

But it was not enough to sway Winfree’s decision to give Alfonso Hernandez the maximum sentence. He has seven days to get things in order before he has to report back to district court to be formally sentenced and taken into custody.

Hernandez does have the right to appeal if he chooses to do so.

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