Teen Who Killed Dog in Home Invasion Given 20 Years in Jail

I saw this story out of Grand Rapids, Michigan of a 15-year-old boy who was sentenced to 20 years for invading a home and killing a dog. Jonathan Castelan said that when he broke into the home, the family’s 8-pound dachhound bit him and he killed it with a hammer.

What is interesting about this case is two fold. First, this is part of a plea despite the huge sentence. Second, the killing of the pet seems to have driver the demands for the long sentence as much as the home invasion. The fact that this is a teen would often factor into a lower sentence but (given the sentence and the release of his name) he appears to have been treated as an adult.

Owners Abel and Denise Soto actually complained that the sentence was too light because of the dog’s death.

The sentence is in fact quite long for the killing of a pet and also long for a home invasion in many states. We have often complained on this blog about the light treatment given the killing of pets. The community was enraged by the dog’s death in this case and it seems to have translated into a longer sentence.

For their part, the Sotos were given a new dachshund puppy by an anonymous source.

Source: USA Today

70 thoughts on “Teen Who Killed Dog in Home Invasion Given 20 Years in Jail

  1. First of all an appeal that I was involved with Nathaniel Abraham Nathaniel Abraham, was the first “youngster” prosecuted in Michigan as adult for murder at 11, he was freed at 21. The state has a bifurcated hearing hearing in the Juvenile Court called a designation hearing. If the child is deemed designated then it is bound over to the Circuit court for a hearing as in any adult case, age 17. There can even be a Plea, Trial, remand or dismissal.

    The case can be dismissed even at that stage or remanded back to the Juvenile court for further proceedings. If it is kept in adult court the following can occur. The Juvenile can be treated as an adult all the way through and even sentenced as an adult. Or the Juvenile can be Tried like an adult and sentenced as in a Juvenile proceedings or if it goes back to the Juvenile Court the Juvenile court rule and remedy’s apply.

    If the instant case, B&E of an Occupied Dwelling with the intent to commit a Felony or Misdemeanor can get you life. Yes, Life. When the dog was killed, this could have been a misdemeanor 90 days or 1 year….It could also be a five year sentence as well.

    I think this is a case ripe for an appeal of this issue excessive sentencing….Another thing that really grips my ass is the truth in sentencing….Thank you GobP…the judge has absolutely NO DISCRETION. It has to be a range of years……like a low end and a high end….something like this depending on his Juvenile record could get him say 36 months to 240 months….which is all BS….

  2. eniobob,

    In juvenile matters there must be exact and concise guidelines. What I did not say above is that until they turn 17 they are kept in isolation 23/24 hours a day….

  3. It was self-defense. No matter what my previous action, (say the B&E), if a dog is biting me, I’m going to stop it. The sentence is ridiculous as are the sentiments of the dog’s owners.

  4. At last a judge who demonstrates an example of something resembling proper justice

    This person deprived the family of one of its number, the family will probably never feel safe in their own homes again.

    “Owners Abel and Denise Soto actually complained that the sentence was too light because of the dog’s death.”

    I can understand (if not fully agree with) their reasoning, Even if he serves the full term, which of course he won’t he’d still be under 40 at release.

    As a dog owner myself I have long held the opionion (whether logical or not) that bringing a pet into the family home should be regarded as adding a new family member to the home, rather than just another possession obtained and the law should recognise the status of the pet and in cases where the pet is killed or injured, the impact on the entire family unit should be considered a factor when it comes to sentencing.

  5. It was self-defense. No matter what my previous action, (say the B&E), if a dog is biting me, I’m going to stop it. The sentence is ridiculous as are the sentiments of the dog’s owners.

    if the dog broke into your house and bit you, you’d might have a point.

  6. Our pets are our children. I support his long sentence, it is about time that pets are not seen as a commodity but as sentient beings we deeply love and cherish!

  7. Before the thread gets Jacked and I am sure it will…..I think the issue is the length of sentence for a 15 year old…being tried as an adult…..not the actual crime that was committed….They are reprehensible in of themselves….my home was broken into by a family member….so yes….I know….

  8. “this is part of a plea despite the huge sentence”
    —————————–
    pardon me but as a non-lawyer….doesn’t this reflect the perps’ lawyers abilities? …I’ve got to think there is information not reflected in this discussion. I’ve heard tell of people who kill people walk away with less…

  9. AY:”Before the thread gets Jacked and I am sure it will…..I think the issue is the length of sentence for a 15 year old…being tried as an adult…..not the actual crime that was committed”….

    Precisely. 3 years with intense counseling max would be more reasonable. Aside from the dog biting the boy invoked a “law of jungle/survival” excuse, culpability for children is not the same as that for an adult, nor should it be either morally or scientifically. What purpose will a 20 year sentence serve and how socialized is the boy likely to be when released as an adult? How much will the state have spent on his incarceration? Where is the benefit?

  10. While I have to agree that pets deserve more respect under the law than they usually get, I’m certainly with the “this is an excessive sentence” consensus. Culheath’s point is valid – the sentence not only isn’t justice, it doesn’t even pass a basic cost/benefit analysis.

  11. Culheath…..absolutely ……

    Wootsy…You are correct… but Michigan has a Truth in Sentencing…the Judge has no discretion….there are sentencing guidelines…NO DEVIATIONS except for reasons stated on the record…..then both folks have the right to appeal, Prosecutor or Defense…..

  12. Mandatory sentencing is really a hobble on the ability of judges to administer justice. It not only interferes with appropriate sentencing by limiting judicial discretion, it somewhat impairs the utility of the function of fact finder.

  13. Anonymously Yours
    1, September 19, 2010 at 11:30 am
    Well, now if Cheney and Bush were subject to it, I’d have absolutely no problem with it…..

    ============================================================

    Gotta agree with you while also recognizing it’s our own form of tribalism …

    Good morning to you, AY … trust your weekend was satisfactory

  14. Now that you all have ironed out the relevant legal wrinkles… please.. may I derail? (Thanks.)

    Spamhead:

    “…bringing a pet into the family home should be regarded as adding a new family member to the home, rather than just another possession obtained and the law should recognise the status of the pet …”

    Would that imply that when the pooch goes out for a poop, that it should be arrested for indecent exposure?

  15. AY,

    Treason is treason. I think that’s one crime where the death penalty is absolutely appropriate regardless of cost. Too bad about Obama aiding and abetting after the fact though. He’s so spineless that even if he had done his duty to the Constitution and slapped those two in cuffs, they’d have likely gotten off with five years and a $10,000 fine instead of death.

  16. Blouise,

    “Five years at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary would be a step in the right direction …”

    I vote for sending them to a penal colony like Devil’s Island. Provide them with a box of matches, a knife, a spear, an ax, and a bag of seeds–and see how long they survive.

  17. “Would that imply that when the pooch goes out for a poop, that it should be arrested for indecent exposure?”

    in what way would the pooch be exposing anything that isn’t already exposed by nature? or do you have your dogs wear under garments to protect their modesty?

  18. Would that imply that when the pooch goes out for a poop, that it should be arrested for indecent exposure?

    only if you say so, however I would happily concede the point to a person obviously more experienced in the examination of canine toiletry behaviour,

  19. It is a dog, it is not a child. It has no rights and is property. While the killing of the animal is regrettable it does not merit a 20 term in prison. The lad should be punished for breaking into the house and should have a full psychiatric work-up to see if he has any latent behaviours that need to be identified, such as a future serial killer.

    If he has a clean bill of health then he should serve time for breaking and entering and pay for a new dog and make restitution for all care costs leading up to the point of the original dogs death.

    A dog is an animal and it is folly to assign it the same moral position as a human being.

  20. ‘A dog is an animal and it is folly to assign it the same moral position as a human being.’

    Why? The dog is a sentient animal just as humans are sentient animals. A dog is not a mere mechanism. On what basis do you discriminate in order to apply morality or ethical considerations to one as opposed to the other? What exactly, aside from some assumed religious perspective, would have you claim a dog is less worthy of survival as an entity than a human?

    Can you imagine, say a hundred years ago when Blacks were called Negroes and considered 3/5 human, someone rationalizing the murder of a slavewith: ‘A negro is an animal and it is folly to assign it the same moral position as a full fledged human being.’

    Of course you can.

  21. culheath:

    that bit of jibberish isnt even worth responding to. You are a fool and worse.

    If you cannot see that a dogs life is not the same as a human beings life I feel sorry for you, you are no more relevant nor wothy of life than a pig and by your own admission.

    It really must be quite a frightful place inside your head.

  22. Anonymously Yours 1, September 19, 2010 at 10:39 am

    … but Michigan has a Truth in Sentencing…the Judge has no discretion….there are sentencing guidelines…NO DEVIATIONS except for reasons stated on the record…..then both folks have the right to appeal, Prosecutor or Defense…..
    ———————————————————
    so is this an outrageous sentence to force an appeal?

    dangerous game of communication if it is…..

    Dogs are sentient but not necessarily the same way as human beings…and they are dependant in our society so deserve our protection but not independant rights…innate reasoning and training are NOT the same thing. That said, deliberately harming animals and causing them cruelties is indeed a proven sign of anti-social tendencies…and also proven to lead to more destructive behaviour. But I read that the animal bit this kid…probably protecting it’s family, it may be that this kid was OD’d on testosterone and found himself over his head…that is not the same as deliberate cruelty. More info needed….

  23. Wootsy,

    If this person was sentenced between the low end and the maxium possible sentence then what is the appealable issue? One thing in Michigan is if you plea even with bad advice, you do not have the right of an automatic appeal….Another GOP initiative…

  24. WSC:Dogs are sentient but not necessarily the same way as human beings…and they are dependant in our society so deserve our protection but not independant rights…innate reasoning and training are NOT the same thing. That said, deliberately harming animals and causing them cruelties is indeed a proven sign of anti-social tendencies…and also proven to lead to more destructive behaviour. But I read that the animal bit this kid…probably protecting it’s family, it may be that this kid was OD’d on testosterone and found himself over his head…that is not the same as deliberate cruelty. More info needed….

    Well said. I disagree with the idea that dogs cannot innately reason, but I am in accord with the rest.

  25. culheath:

    yep I did give you a short answer, when you think a dog deserves the same moral standing as a human you have given up your moral standing as a human being.

    As Ingrid Nutkirk says “a rat is boy is a goat is a dog” or some such inane gibberish that psychotics use.

  26. when you think a dog deserves the same moral standing as a human you have given up your moral standing as a human being.

    That makes no more sense than claiming one has to give up playing saxophone if one wants to play piano.

    Please answer my core question: What is your basis for assuming humans should be given a superior moral standing. To me it sounds like you are an adherent of human exceptionalism and speciesism.

  27. culheath:

    you are right, have a cigar. In fact you are damn right. When a dog or a dolphin for that matter send one of their own to the moon or write Les Miserable or Hamlet I will change my mind. Until that time I will enjoy pig, cow, chicken, goat, sheep and whatever other animals that are tasty. Preferably on a bed of hot coals.

    I don’t eat pets nor cetaceans. I like them, but if one bit me or hurt someone, put a bullet in it’s head.

  28. See that wasn’t so hard was it. :)

    Three things

    1) Until that time I will enjoy pig, cow, chicken, goat, sheep and whatever other animals that are tasty.

    All of those animals are someone’s “pet” somewhere. Of course you could just mean that they are fair game for eating as long as you haven’t deemed them a pet.

    2) from my original comment: ….if a dog is biting me, I’m going to stop it. To be clear, I would say the same of a human, if it required lethality, so be it.

    3) I don’t eat pets nor cetaceans. I like them, but if one bit me or hurt someone, put a bullet in it’s head.
    How about a human? Or would you hesitate because of some special moral consideration?

  29. core question: What is your basis for assuming humans should be given a superior moral standing.
    ———————————————-
    animals don’t have ‘morals’, they have instincts. Morals, implies a standard above instinct, it implies a measure of reason to be a true moral.

    That said, a being without instinct would be close a robot and an animal with intact instinct will always be safer and saner than a human bean without either moral or reason….

  30. Actually recent studies have indicated that animals (especially monkeys and chimps) do have a sense of right and wrong.

    Ex: A group of chimps watching a subordinate male hassle the dominate male and then get trounced by the dominate show no reaction. But if a dominate male initiates the violence against a subordinate who did not provoke the attack, then the observing group will succor the victim demonstrating their awareness of the injustice of the attack.

    There are multiple and varied examples of such ethical awareness across species some more obvious than others.

    I will look up the study for you.

  31. that was clever pete, and sadly apropos…

    thank you for that link culheath, nice article and all those lovely examples in 1 place :)
    I really like this one, it demonstrates ‘reasoned morality’ as well as compassion outside of the group;

    ‘In 2003, a herd of 11 elephants rescued antelope who were being held inside an enclosure in KwaZula-Natal, South Africa.
    The matriarch unfastened all of the metal latches holding the gates closed and swung the entrance open allowing the antelope to escape.’

    ~I think anyone who has ever had a pet can tell you that properly socialized animals are driven by the ‘rules’ they learn from their group. I can think of lots of people that should be on leashes or in cages…and the little dog in question was exhibiting protective behaviors…that is instinct of a higher order….

  32. Dopey said
    Contradict yourself much, Spammy? (rhetorical)

    Spamheed said
    As a dog owner myself I have long held the opionion (whether logical or not) that bringing a pet into the family home should be regarded as adding a new family member to the home, rather than just another possession obtained and the law should recognise the status of the pet and in cases where the pet is killed or injured, the impact on the entire family unit should be considered a factor when it comes to sentencing.

    and the Dopey said
    While I have to agree that pets deserve more respect under the law than they usually get,

    does that mean that Dopey is also contradicting himself? of course it does, but dopey doens’t see it that way

    you at the ol’ double standards again Dopey? or is that ur way of telling Spam that you love him and want to be like him?

    Sad two faced little toad

  33. that might explain the abnormally large amount of excrement comin out you lot

    good luck with that copy and paste

    *chuckle*

  34. Invading a home, sure, it should not be done. Restore any damages and a sentence of 5 years or so should do it for me. I don’t give two fucks about you losing your dog. And if you tell me 20 yrs for a minor is fine, or not enough, I can’t let you procreate. You’re the real killer in the story. That is murder.

    People make mistakes…. Some invade homes… some keep pets. It’s all crime to me.
    Go fuck yourself instead of the innocent, Einstein.

  35. To all the animal-loving pet keepers in here with the my-pet-is-my-brother-arguement in here.

    It is not.

    If your dog is like your brother, the spider, the fly and the fungus on your dick are too, but somehow… if it’s a bacteria, the sanctity of life doesn’t even seem to apply all of a sudden…

    Well, sorry but I don’t do thinking in corners…

    Care as much for your dog as for the fly on the wall, it’s the reasonable thing to do.

  36. I know a guy that almost shot the brains out of a little prick (no it wasn’t Bud) that broke into his house. The cops found hair and skin in the wall, grazed his head with a 9mm. Now that is a close shave. Lucky this kid didn’t break into the house of a gun loving, well armed citizen.

  37. To all the animal-loving pet keepers in here with the my-pet-is-my-brother-arguement in here.

    It is not.

    If your dog is like your brother, the spider, the fly and the fungus on your dick are too, but somehow… if it’s a bacteria, the sanctity of life doesn’t even seem to apply all of a sudden
    ————————
    not true Jericho, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106194009.htm ‘ bacteria are absolutely necessary to life, “Dr. Gerald Callahan, who studies bacteria and infectious diseases at Colorado State University, argues that all living things on earth must have infections to thrive, and society’s challenge is to sort the good infections from the bad infections.”.

    and St. Francis and St. Clare took the understanding even further, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZZFO9F8FWU&feature=related

  38. “I know a guy that almost shot the brains out of a little prick (no it wasn’t Bud) that broke into his house. The cops found hair and skin in the wall, grazed his head with a 9mm. Now that is a close shave. Lucky this kid didn’t break into the house of a gun loving, well armed citizen.”

    In the UK where ordinary citizens cant be trusted to possess real firearms to defend ourselves, we would have to catch the little fella in situ and then express ourselves rather liberally with a bat, or other blunt object to hand in order to protect our family and home from these “people”

    I suppose it’s all down to the interpretation of whose rights are the greatest, those of the homeowner to protect themselves and live in peace, or the housebreaker who makes an active decision to impose themselves on someone elses life and therefore (in my opinion) has any such rights diminished. As I said, a matter of interpretation

  39. Spam says
    In the UK where ordinary citizens cant be trusted to possess real firearms to defend ourselves.

    You aint allowed nothing at all?

    That’s just so damn wrong, even the Swiss are armed, I always thought the brits were more enlightened than that

  40. we had a thing in a place called Dunblaine in 1996, where 16 small children were massacred by a guy who had a lot of weapons, all legally held and correctly licenced.

    in 1997 they amended the firearms act and virtually outlawed private gun ownership.

    only licenced shotguns and airguns (b-b guns) and a very few highly legislated long bore hunting weapons are at the moment allowed and since the recent Workington shootings I can see that being tightened up, because the killer used legally held and properly licenced weapons.

    Sayng that, if you want to pick a positive out of it, the UK has the lowest rate of gun homocides in the world and the police are not armed as a norm, so less chance of getting gunned down by a trigger happy copper

  41. It is difficult for a country with too little compassion to pass sentences on crimes that would better be solved by some true rehabilitation. I am confident that if this young man stay in prison for 20 years, he may graduate to killing humans.

  42. I’ll tell ya…a 15 yr old boy isnt making rational decisions. He is somewhat dumb, i do not feel 20 yrs is a justified sentence. He is just a boy. I do feel he should do time for his actions but not 20 years. We can look at our pets as family all we want. However, the fact remains they are not human and you can run down and get a new one anyday. It is not human at all in fact, they put them down in most places if it doesnt have a home. Think about that….and you want to give a 15 yr old little boy 20 yrs of his life for that bullshit? You people obviously have not done 1 day in jail nor have you felt what it is like to lose a 15 yr old. This boys life is now ruined completely. He will never get a decent job and in fact will probably be more of a maniac,,,getting out in 20(if he lives it out)..than he was going in. The dog bit him..id dropkicked its little ass across the room…but not killed it. Its only a weener dog. Anyway….The boy should be placed in a rehabilitation program without medicine. Simply reviewed,,and spoken to about his actions. A 15 year old boy is very impressionable. And this kid will most likely be determined by his sentence as well. Oh..i killed a dog..im doin 20. Sitting beside a piece of shit mothafucker doing 8…for homocide…on a human,,and if it were your brother…going away..or…dead…how would you feel? Im just saying,,you pathetic fucking morons…are the death…of America..get a life…or learn about others’s. Bye

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  44. “However, the fact remains they are not human and you can run down and get a new one anyday. It is not human at all in fact, they put them down in most places if it doesnt have a home. ”

    This is not completely true any more and becoming less and less true. Just about every state has a dachshund rescue and a small dog rescue. In my city in a major metropolitan area, I can name a dozen dog rescues that rescue from shelters, and transport and foster until permanent homes are found. I can’t speak to the sentence because I have very little sympathy for the kid who committed this crime, probably for 3 reasons. The first and most important is, 30 years ago I was mugged by a kid his age and I have never felt safe on the street again. It basically ruins you for life to be violated that way. The second reason is, I was 15 once and I believe everyone knows by age 15 the difference between right and wrong. So when a 15 year old decides to break into someone’s house and kill their dog, he has given up his freedom voluntarily, because we’re just talking about how long, not whether he belongs in jail. The third reason is, I am a dachshund owner and if someone did that to my dog, I would go out and buy a gun and the conversation would be over. Or at least that’s what I would want to do. So, when you choose to violate others you deserve what you get. Oh and 4–He took a life. You take a beloved animal’s life, a pet considered a family member, and it’s highly possible to “graduate” to taking human life. Proven fact. I do feel sorry for the kid because there are no winners in this scenario, but my deepest sympathy goes to the dog who was protecting his home, and his mom and dad. Yes, mom and dad. I’m happy for them that they were given another dachshund puppy but it doesn’t erase the horror they went through. The living victims have a life sentence, because they will never 100% feel safe again and my heart goes out to them.

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