Man convicted in dog death case

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Courtesy photo Dakota Peacock is shown here with her 11-month-old corgi-red heeler mix that died last year. A jury convicted a former roommate of Peacock’s on two counts related to animal abuse. Sentencing will be in June.

By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

COEUR d'ALENE — Jennifer Cook believes justice has been served for the death of a corgi-red heeler mix that a veterinarian called "morbidly concerning."

Sentencing for Austin Matott, 23, will be on June 6 after a jury convicted him this week on both counts related to the July 2017 death of Hank, an 11-month-old dog that was owned by Matott's former roommate, Dakota Peacock.

Matott was charged by the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office with cruelty to and beating an animal — both misdemeanors in Idaho — at a Hauser home.

"I feel justice has been served, and we'll know more at the sentencing," said Cook, Peacock's mother. Cook has urged state legislators to make animal cruelty a felony in Idaho.

The maximum penalty for the two misdemeanor counts is a year in jail.

Magistrate Judge Robert Burton ordered a psychological evaluation for Matott prior to sentencing.

The jury spent about an hour deliberating Wednesday.

"I think that, based upon the evidence, the jury made the right decision," said Kootenai County Deputy District Attorney Art Verharen. "This was a unique case due to the (animal autopsy) revealing extensive injuries to the dog that you can't see by looking at it.

"It was nice to have a group of people who were eager and willing to see this through."

Peacock said Hank died in her arms as she was taking him to a veterinarian. Cook said her daughter has suffered emotional stress over the ordeal.

"I got her a new puppy, and she won't trust her new roommate with it," Cook said. "She's lost a lot of trust in people."

Matott denied beating Hank in a Facebook post and maintained his innocence at trial, claiming he believes a board fell on the dog.

"I would never ever ever ever hurt an animal," he wrote earlier in an online comment. "I've grown up with animals my entire life … I've loved every single one that I have ever had the chance to meet. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would ever, our could ever accuse me of doing such a sick and wrong thing."

The pathology report states there were injuries to the brain, ribs, lungs, liver and abdomen.

Veterinarian Julia Leese called the results "morbidly concerning."

"The injuries that he suffered were consistent with substantial damage from severe force such as being hit by a car, beaten with an object by a person with great strength or falling from three stories or higher," Leese wrote in a letter supporting Peacock's allegations.

Peacock said she and her boyfriend went to Spokane Valley and left Hank in Matott's care. The three, along with two others, were roommates at the time.

She said Matott called her to come back to Hauser quickly, but didn't give an explanation. When she returned, she said Matott had Hank in a wet towel and the dog was not responsive.

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