Thurston County Jury Returns Guilty Verdicts for Owner in Dog Cruelty Case

By The Chronicle

A Thurston County jury on Thursday returned guilty verdicts against the owner of a Bucoda dog named Wolfy three years after the dog was found shot dead in a logging clearcut with evidence he had been suffering from hair loss, broken teeth and maggot-infested wounds. 

The jury deliberated for about a day after three days of testimony and argument before finding Robert L. Leatherman guilty of first-degree animal cruelty and bail jumping. 

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m., Nov. 8, in Thurston County Superior Court.

A second suspect, Jeffrey Gavin, was accused of shooting Wolfy with a .22 caliber rifle, causing a wound that according to a necropsy did not kill the dog instantly and caused suffering. He was scheduled to go to trial as Leatherman’s co-defendant but pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree animal cruelty before the trial started Monday. 

Gavin’s sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the case in October 2014 after hearing a report that a person shot a dog in the Bucoda area and after pictures of Wolfy and his injuries were posted on social media.

It was believed that Gavin shot the dog at the request of Leatherman after a photograph showing the animal’s neglected state began to spread on social media. 

Thurston County deputy Jay Swanson told the jury Tuesday that he found the dog dead, wrapped in a sleeping bag, in a clearcut off Tono Road. 

Thurston County Joint Animal Services seized Wolfy’s body and ordered a necropsy, which was performed by an area veterinarian. The necropsy revealed long-standing neglect, according to testimony in the trial, including skin injuries filled with maggots, substantial hair loss, severe tooth decay and other problems. The dog’s stomach was full of rocks and corn kernels, which prosecutors argued meant the dog was starving and desperate for food.  

Leatherman and Gavin were charged with animal cruelty in May 2015. Leatherman was later charged with bail jumping after missing a pretrial hearing. 

Their trials were postponed more than a dozen times since then. Leatherman’s trial started Monday with testimony and argument from attorneys continuing through Wednesday afternoon. The jury went out Wednesday afternoon and deliberated until returning a verdict Thursday.