Chris Dillingham of Stevenson, Washington, will very likely face charges of animal cruelty after killing his Labrador Retriever, Cabella, with an explosive device made using black powder from fireworks. Prosecutors had initially said they could not charge Dillingham with animal cruelty because Cabella’s death was “instantaneous” and they could not prove that she had suffered.
As Prosecuting Attorney Adam Kick says to KATU, “after additional research it appears animal cruelty is absolutely applicable.”
Dillingham owns and operates a fireworks stand called Thundershack in the Stevenson area in rural Washington and had put on a fireworks show for neighbors, according to KATU. He made the device that killed Cabella on his home work bench. After attaching it to her neck, Dillingham plied her with treats to prevent her from wriggling out of the bomb.
A neighbor reported a loud explosion around 3:45 am on August 4. The force of the device was such that Cabella was decapitated.
Skamania County deputies who arrived at the scene also found Dillingham throwing furniture and coins from his house. He reportedly said that his ex-girlfriend had given him Cabella and “put the devil in it.” According to news station KOIN, Dillingham told deputies that “the world is going to end” because of a nuclear strike and that he was preparing for “the Rapture.”
Dillingham’s son and a friend were in his house at the time he detonated the device; they were not injured. Dillingham, who is being held on $500,000 bail, also faces charges of second-degree malicious mischief, reckless endangerment and possession of explosive devices. He had previously been arrested in September 1993, on felony charges for the unauthorized use of a vehicle in Oregon’s Hood River County. He had also been arrested for drunk driving in 1998, as well as in 2007 and 2009 on assault charges in Washington.
There have been conflicting reports about Cabella’s previous owners. KOIN says that she was once owned by Sam Mins, who had given her away to his cousin — Dillingham’s ex-girlfriend. Another news station, KATU, says that a man named Ty Freemantle said he had given Cabella to Dillingham’s family six months ago as he had to move elsewhere for a new job; Freemantle told KATU that “I felt a little bit of guilt too. It’s the worst part.”
The violent killing of Cabella and Dillingham’s unusual behaviors raise the question of why he was allowed to be in possession of fireworks. As the Seattle Times points out, regulations about fireworks vary widely across Washington. While many western Washington cities (Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue) ban fireworks, about one-third of the state’s households set off their own. Some fireworks such as bottle rockets and smaller firecrackers that are banned under Washington law can be purchased on tribal lands and then detonated elsewhere. Both legal and illegal fireworks cause dozens of injuries and a number of fires across the state every year.
The animal cruelty charges that Dillingham is now likely to face are a felony in Washington; these come with a maximum penalty of 12 months. Another charge that Dillingham faces, possession of a Class A explosive device, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Dillingham’s next court appearance will be on August 15 and he is likely to face more charges. While we cannot know exactly what Cabella experienced, the sheer cruelty of Dillingham’s alleged act is chilling and more than suggests that he must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
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