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EDITORIAL: Justice for children, as well as goats

EDITORIAL: Justice for children, as well as goats

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THE unspeakable cruelty depicted in a recent story in The Free Lance–Star about four adults in Spotsylvania County who were charged in the brutal torture and killing of two goats in June was bad enough.

But the fact that the suspects reportedly videotaped their stomach-churning behavior (to post on Facebook and Instagram? to privately enjoy later?) was even worse, conjuring up unwelcome reminders of sickening “animal crush videos” in which women deliberately killed small animals with their stiletto heels.

Thanks to a tip about animal abuse by a neighbor, the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office was able to investigate and seize one of the suspect’s phones, which allegedly showed the homeowner urging two large dogs to attack the terrified goats in her backyard as they were slashed to death by humans wielding a spiked bat and what appeared to be a machete.

A grand jury indicted all four of the suspects—Andrew Haefele, 36, Donald Compton, 35, and Halie Morgan, 22, of Spotsylvania, and Charles McKinney, 34, of Maurertown—on felony charges of conspiracy to maim an animal, maiming an animal and animal cruelty, which could carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years if convicted.

The goat killing story received widespread media coverage in the Fredericksburg region and beyond. So did the story about Tommie, a pit bull who died after he was tied to a pole in a Richmond park and set on fire last year. After that story went viral, the perpetrator was caught and sentenced to five years in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to felony animal cruelty charges.

Virginians do not tolerate this aberrant behavior, not should they. According to Psychology Today, studies have found that intentional acts of animal cruelty and torture are often related to psychopathy, so this crime needs to be taken seriously. And it is.

But if people who are cruel to animals should be sent to prison for up to a decade, shouldn’t the sentences be even longer for offenders who are cruel to children?

Yet 18-year-old Terrell Carter—who was found guilty of malicious wounding for shooting a 9-year-old girl playing in a Fredericksburg playground with a .22-caliber “Superpoint” high-velocity air rifle, severely injuring her spleen and requiring her to undergo emergency surgery in Richmond—will only have to serve four years of his 20-year sentence, and that in the Youthful Offender Program, an alternative to prison. That’s less time than Tommie’s executioner will have to serve.

The punishment should fit the crime. Intentionally wounding a young child is an even worse example of human depravity and should mean more, not less, time behind bars.

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