DRESDEN — A Weakley County judge granted judicial diversion Thursday for the two teenagers who tortured a puppy to death last May.
Preston Odle, 18, of Dresden and Levi Evans, 19, of Greenfield each pled guilty in September to one count of aggravated animal cruelty and faced two-year terms for the Class E felonies.
Circuit Judge William B. Acree Jr. said the maximum sentences likely wouldn’t deter others from committing similar crimes.
Odle and Evans must complete 200 hours of community service and submit to random drug tests throughout their two-year probations, the judge ruled.
“I would hope that the publicity that has been given to this case would serve as a deterrent to others who might be so foolish as to engage in conduct such as this,” Acree said.
A group of about 30 animal rights activists picketed with signs outside the courthouse before the hearing and released purple balloons afterward in honor of the puppy.
The St. Bernard puppy, about 4 months old, died of injuries it received May 15 at the hands of Odle and Evans, according to an affidavit. The dog had been kicked and suffered broken ribs, Dresden Police Chief Randal Walker reported.
Authorities also accused the teens of stabbing the dog at least once and hanging it with wire wrapped around its neck.
The dog apparently had been given to Odle, who said he didn’t want it and called a friend to come get it. The friend and his father contacted police after they came to pick up the dog and allegedly found it limping and foaming at the mouth.
Odle’s attorney, Lane Unger, said his client’s actions were “incredibly stupid.”
“This is something that started out as young boys messing with an animal,” Unger said. “It escalated, and it’s extremely unfortunate. They would take this back in a heartbeat.”
Evans’ attorney, Robert Kinton, said the teens were “guilty of being fools.”
Odle and Evans apologized and asked forgiveness in prepared statements read by their attorneys. They said they are having trouble getting jobs because nobody will hire them because of the negative publicity surrounding them.
“There are a lot of people that will probably be disappointed in the decision I just rendered in this case,” Acree told the teens as they stood before the bench. “I think there are a lot of people that would like to see you go to jail for two years, and I think there are a lot of people who don’t think too kindly of you.”
The judge said some people in the community would likely keep close eyes on the teens and call police if the teens break the law, even for infractions as minor as speeding.
“Both of you are young,” Acree said. “You have an opportunity to make something out of your lives.”
An animal rights group called “Justice For Puppy Doe” expressed disappointment in the ruling. Group member Lisa Oatsvall testified on the puppy’s behalf during sentencing and asked the judge to impose a two-year prison term.
The group has more than 800 members on its Facebook page.
“I’m not happy,” Oatsvall said afterward. “I wanted two years (in prison). I just have to hope and pray that these two have learned from this and hopefully will never do anything like this again.”
Martin resident Ruby Dean watched the hearing and was visibly shaken throughout. She constantly winced and cried and often buried her face in her hands.
“I wish justice would have been served,” Dean said, moments after purple balloons were released on the courthouse lawn in the dog’s honor. “At least they got something. I hope they change.”