Senior airman gets 18 weeks for improperly killing pet dog
Editor’s Note: A correction to this story was issued Aug. 20.
BURY ST. EDMUNDS, England — A 48th Fighter Wing security forces member was led from the courtroom in handcuffs Monday morning after he was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail for the admitted slaying of his pet dog.
Senior Airman Dustin Yandell, 21, of Clinton, Md., was convicted last month at the Bury St. Edmunds Magistrates Court of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal by improper killing after he pleaded guilty to the charge.
Yandell admitted slitting his Labrador’s throat with a knife and dumping its body in the recycle bin in front of his house in Newmarket after an argument with his wife over the phone. The dog was discovered on March 28.
The Air Force said his pay will be suspended during his incarceration. After his release, the 48th Judge Advocate General’s office will determine his fate in the Air Force, according to 48th Fighter Wing spokesman Airman First Class Michael Hess.
Yandell’s defense attorney, Jeremy Kendall, on Monday introduced mitigating factors about Yandell to try to sway the magistrates to impose a work-order sentence instead of time behind bars.
In the end, however, Yandell’s service in Iraq as a combat medic and as a volunteer firefighter in Maryland, his otherwise spotless criminal record, and his hopes to become a firefighter after leaving the U.S. Air Force were not enough to persuade the three-person panel of magistrates to keep Yandell from jail.
Kendall attempted to link what an Air Force psychological exam determined was Yandell’s tendency to become “emotionally detached during stressful situations” to his time in Iraq on the front lines of trauma care.
“Of course, no doubt this had its toll on his psychological health. There has been a gradual buildup of pressures,” Kendall said of Yandell’s service in Iraq. “What was a virtue, had become a vice.”
Kendall argued passionately that a jail sentence would adversely impact the type of discharge Yandell received from the Air Force and his chances of leading a full life back in the United States.
“His career in the Air Force will come to an end as a result of this offense,” Kendall said.
But prosecutors showed that Yandell attempted to conceal evidence and initially lied to investigators with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals before admitting his guilt to Air Force investigators. The group filed a charge against Yandell on July 1.
He was eligible for six months in jail, but 25 percent of the sentence was automatically reduced because of his guilty plea. Mark Thompson, RSPCA chief investigator for East Anglia, said Yandell will probably be out of jail much sooner. “If he’s a good boy in there, he’ll be out in nine or 10 weeks,” he said. “That’s just the way it works.”