The Scales of Justice: Oregon Man Pleads Guilty to Fish Murder

260xStory180px-Betta_splendens_paleIt appears that Oregon police take fish murder more seriously than Texas police. We previously saw how police declined to charge a woman who fried and ate her ex-husband’s pet fish, here. Now, Donald Earl Fite III has pleaded guilty to stabbing Sarah Harris’ pet betta (Siamese fighting) fish, DeLorean, to death when she (inexplicably) declined to resume her relationship with him. DeLorean was found at the crime scene on the wooden floor with a knife in its back.

Harris had broken up with Fite but found him lying on her bed when she returned to her apartment on July 25th. He explained that he wanted to get back together, a proposition that she declined. He then shoved her against a wall, grabbed her hair and tossed her against a bathtub. She fled only to find the corpus de-fishy on the floor.

In a moment fit for a crime novel, Fite reportedly told an officer, “If she can’t have me, then she can’t have the fish.”

Fite, 27, has now pleaded guilty Tuesday to animal abuse and domestic violence assault. He was sentenced to 2 years of probation, 80 hours of community service and $617 in fines and court costs.

His attorney, Tom Macnair, tried to explain that the killing of the fish was a “very low point” in Fite’s life. Not to mention an even lower point in DeLorean’s life. Yet, Macnair insisted that “[h]e is absolutely mortified and ashamed about what he did to the fish.”

In an interesting twist, prosecutor Eric Zimmerman told Judge Eric Bergstrom that Harris wanted to get a memorial tattoo and wanted Fite to pay for it. Bergstrom wisely declined that request.

What was even more intriguing is Zimmerman’s bizarre request that Fite be ordered to stay away from fish. There is no allegation that Fite is a mad serial fish killer, stalking the local fish mongers and plotting unspeakable massacres at the city aquarium. It is not even clear that Zimmerman was speaking of live fish. The order would have kept Fite out of any restaurant — particularly with live fish on display. (I assume that lobsters and other crustaceans would not be covered). Once again, Bergstrom had the sense to decline this fishy protective order.

I am still, however, left with the impression that Texas is soft on fish crime given its treatment of a true serial fish killer.

Ultimately, Harris could sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress and conversion as well as trespass. That should pay for a whole school of memorial fish tattoos.

For the full story, click here and here.

22 thoughts on “The Scales of Justice: Oregon Man Pleads Guilty to Fish Murder

  1. After seeing this persons photo would you really want him to be seated at the next table in the restaurant that you are eating at? I hope that the prosecutor did not state his request making fish faces?

  2. Legal quandaries of the day. Wednesday.

    Would he get more jail time if the murdered a Wanda named fish or a fish named Wanda…

    Furthermore, how does a human legally/technically *murder* a nonhuman animal.

  3. ok. so. I’ve been gone for a while.
    this is what I return to?
    a beta was my kid’s first pet. it survived a surprise trip down the disposal and another trauma when our dog drank all of its water.
    these fish cost about $2 at any pet shop. they live in sewer water.

    I have koi and koi people are really nuts. some koi are worth millions and their owners take them to shows.
    no kidding.

    i think this guy had a bad attorney.

  4. Gyges

    thanks, doll.
    i was not incarcerated, thankfully no deaths in the family although my mother did imagine she had liver cancer which got everyone jumping up and down for a few weeks. she’s a hypochondriac which make for interesting dinner chat.

    I took a break because it got hot here. too hot to think let alone type. then I got my face lasered (will go into detail if anyone is interested) and I could not sit near a window or go outdoors for several weeks.
    I’ve since set up a small clay studio in the corner of the garage and have been happily throwing pots and taking class and secretly smoking.
    happily the weather has cooled off and even better, it looks like rain.
    Hope you’ve all been happy and healthy

  5. JT: Scales of Justice? I like that.

    One Question: Why is it safe to presume this guy can control his urges around lobsters? Usually, in the tank, their claws are bound and can’t defend themselves.

    I guess this is over the line, to say the judge focused only on the fish, and yet did not take a fish-eye view so as to consider all possibilities.

    you know, like fish-eye lenses? also called wide angle lens?

    I know, I should stay away from jokes most of the time. I have great lobster stories, but no one would believe me.

  6. GLSM,

    Good for you.

    Things have cooled off a bit, the gasoline that kept pouring itself on the fire got banned (at least for a month). Since then the couple of fires we’ve had since have been more of the grill some steak variety than the burn some bridges kind.

    How’s that for a metaphor?

  7. I think we pay too much attention to the fish, with Betas its’ kill or be killed. The stalking of his ex is the creepy action and probation may not solve the problem.

  8. scriba writes: I know, I should stay away from jokes most of the time. I have great lobster stories, but no one would believe me.

    sorry. You should never stay away from telling jokes. this is a hard sad world and we need to laugh.

  9. Gyges writes: Things have cooled off a bit, the gasoline that kept pouring itself on the fire got banned (at least for a month). Since then the couple of fires we’ve had since have been more of the grill some steak variety than the burn some bridges kind.

    How’s that for a metaphor?

    its a great metaphor and one that I relate to.
    my husband who had been out of work for 11 months has a new situation. the $$ is good and the interesting news is that he is working for a guy who he knew at the last place and not from any networking or head-huntering.
    the bad news is that he now lives in China.
    I don’t.
    I get to see him every 4-10 weeks. I have no idea how much I like this.
    He hates it. I’m too independent and he wants me to miss him which I just don’t know how to do. yet.

  10. GWMom,
    Absence makes the heart grow fonder!?? Of course, I am not sure the person who first wrote those words was thinking of China. Wow! That is a huge separation. Good luck with that and welcome back.
    We had one of these Beta’s when I was young and it killed every other fish in out tank. The pet shop owner failed to tell us that they need to be separated!

  11. rafflaw writes: Absence makes the heart grow fonder!?? Of course, I am not sure the person who first wrote those words was thinking of China. Wow! That is a huge separation. Good luck with that and welcome back.
    We had one of these Beta’s when I was young and it killed every other fish in out tank. The pet shop owner failed to tell us that they need to be separated!

    you know what? I did miss you and this place.
    I don’t miss my squeeze yet. maybe this is a good thing. maybe not. he is concerned that my natural proclivity for independence will somehow affect our thing together. but 28 years is not to be undone by this.

    Betas are disposable, introductory pets. they are cheap, pretty, low maintenance. and ferocious predators. their colors flare when kept in individual bowls so that they can see each other but not get to each other.
    talk about frustration.

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