Trial for South Bend man accused of killing dog with hammer begins

68-year old John Hill appeared at the St. Joseph County courthouse for trial on Thursday.
68-year old John Hill appeared at the St. Joseph County courthouse for trial on Thursday.(Staff)
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 12:03 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WPTA and WNDU) - A South Bend man accused of beating his dog to death with a hammer in his front lawn began trial on Thursday.

WPTA affiliate WNDU reports that 68-year old John Hill appeared at the St. Joseph County courthouse for trial. The jury heard from a number of witnesses that took up the entire afternoon session on Thursday.

The prosecution leaned on direct testimony from a neighbor who made the 911 call after seeing Hill from his window using a hammer to hit a dog. That’s the dog a police officer says she found whimpering under a blanket of snow when she arrived. The dog eventually had to be put down.

The officer identified a hammer with dog hair on it found inside Hill’s home, while testifying on the witness stand. The officer showed the jury this evidence as well as bodycam footage during her response to the 911 call. The third witness was the owner of the animal hospital that cared for Hill’s dog after police dropped it off.

The defense argued that this evidence doesn’t prove Hill’s malicious intent. While they didn’t deny the actions in court, they argue this was Hill’s attempt to euthanize an old, sick animal. Protesters with the South Bend Lost & Found Pets group are following this case closely too. They arrived outside the courthouse an hour and a half before the trial began, saying the max penalty for this crime isn’t enough, even if Hill is convicted.

“That’s why we’re here today. We’re asking for stiffer penalties. There’s got to be a solution. We can do better for all of our pets and we’re not putting up with any kind of animal abuse,” said South Bend Lost & Found Pets officer Brenda Bely.

“We need stiffer penalties for this. We’ve seen too many times, they slap them on the hands and go. This isn’t right,” said South Bend Lost & Found Pets Vice President Tina Donica.

Hill is charged with torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal. Hill faces six months to two and a half years if convicted of this level six felony. Testimony and final arguments are expected to wrap up by noon on Friday, leaving the case in the jury’s hands for the rest of the afternoon or until they reach a verdict.

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