Saturday, October 9, 2004 Posted: 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
SANTA ANA, California (AP) -- A man who beheaded a German shepherd he had named for his girlfriend was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life under the state's three-strikes law.
James Abernathy, 43, was convicted in June of felony animal cruelty for killing the dog, named Marie, after a fight with his girlfriend.
Abernathy would have faced a maximum of six years if not for two prior convictions in 1986 for assault with a deadly weapon.
"The community is much safer after the judge's ruling," said Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown.
Defense lawyers claimed Abernathy suffered from schizophrenia and psychotic delusions. The judge, however, ruled he was sane at the time of the January 2002 violence.
"In the two years I've known him, he's been on anti-psychotic medication and he's probably one of the calmest, most rational, pleasant people I've ever dealt with in this system," said Abernathy's attorney, William Morrissey.
He must serve at least 20 years before he becomes eligible for parole, Brown said