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Man sentenced for animal cruelty

A Suffolk man was sentenced to 60 days in jail for leaving multiple dogs outside in extreme heat last summer.

A dog named Maxwell, owned by Jacob Richard Romes Chappell, died at his home in the 5800 block of Mineral Spring Road on July 3, 2018. The dog was discovered by animal control officers who went to check on the welfare of the dogs.

Another dog, named Lilly, was suffering heatstroke when the officers arrived and barely survived after being seized by the officer and rushed to a veterinarian. Most of the dogs were in a concrete-floored pen with no access to water or shade. In one pen, a city trashcan on its side was the only shelter.

One dog had burns on the pads of its paws. Lilly suffered her skin peeling and sloughing off because of the high body temperature she endured. Lilly ultimately survived, and all of the dogs were adopted out from Suffolk Animal Care.

In all, Chappell, 26, was charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty and 11 counts of failure to care for animals. He was arrested in October and pleaded guilty to all of the charges in January.

“The defendant basically did not regard these living creatures,” Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Susan Walton said in court on Monday. “If you can’t care for the dogs, don’t have them.”

Throughout Monday’s sentencing hearing, Walton emphasized the value of the home Chappell was living in — up to maybe $500,000, she said. She also talked about the multiple vehicles, boats and four-wheelers on the property.

“This wasn’t an economic situation,” she said.

But Chappell’s family and friends who testified on his behalf, along with his attorney, Justin Bush, painted a different picture.

Chappell was depressed after the death of his father and stretching himself too thin trying to run his father’s masonry contracting business, which he had taken over during his father’s illness, the witnesses said.

Friends and family were trying to help him take care of the dogs while he was out of town on jobs, but some of them were also trying to convince him to give up the dogs.

“He was juggling a lot of stuff, and it all came tumbling down,” one said.

“Nothing was done on purpose,” Chappell said during the hearing. “Everything just kind of got out of hand.”

Making matters worse for Chappell, animal control officers visited his home a month ago and found two dogs in the same pens, even though he’d been ordered not to own any companion animals. His girlfriend testified they were hers, but they were the same dogs Chappell had owned as house pets before his arrest.

Judge L. Wayne Farmer was skeptical about the girlfriend’s testimony that she had bought the dogs and made clear in his sentence that Chappell is no longer allowed to own animals, or even have them on the property, after he is released.

“You’re going to spend 60 days in jail for the fact that Maxwell laid there and died,” Farmer said.

Bush asked for Chappell to serve his sentence on weekends, and to allow him to report at the end of this week, both of which got a stern “no” from Farmer.

The other charges gained Chappell suspended sentences and suspended fines. He also has $12,551 in restitution to pay.