Seeing his parents and brother in the courtroom, a Fresno man wiped tears from his eyes after pleading no contest Tuesday to killing a relative’s toy poodle by kicking it and standing on top of it.
Under a plea agreement, Gerald James Santema, 38, will spend two years behind bars for the felony animal cruelty charge, prosecutor Timothy Donovan said.
He will be sentenced in Fresno County Superior Court on Nov. 28. Until then, Judge Dennis Peterson ordered Santema to remain locked up in the Fresno County Jail.
The plea brought a sigh of relief to his parents and brother, who went to Peterson’s courtroom to testify against for Santema at his preliminary hearing.
After the plea, Donovan said the 6-foot, 235 pound Santema has never said why he killed the dog, named Wiggles, who is weighed five to 10 pounds.
The 6-foot, 235 pound Gerald James Santema has never explained why he killed the toy poodle named Wiggles, who is weighed five to 10 pounds
Fresno County sheriff’s deputies arrested Santema at a home in Calwa on June 2 after relatives reported the toy poodle’s death. Court records say the dog was killed on May 27.
At the time of the incident, Brenda Mitchell, president of Fresno Humane Animal Services, said family members witnessed the dog’s beating. “He kicked the dog and stood on it until it was dead,” Mitchell said. “It was just awful.”
Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright said Santema also punched the dog before burying the animal in a shallow grave.
Court records say Santema was on probation after pleading no contest in August 2016 to a felony assault charge.
While investigating the dog’s death, deputies learned that Santema struck his father over Memorial Day weekend in the same home. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed a charge of inflicting injury on an elderly person.
Court records say Santema was on probation after pleading no contest in August 2016 to a felony assault charge. He also has a misdemeanor drunken driving conviction in November 2014 and misdemeanor conviction in July 2009 for carrying a concealed weapon in a vehicle.