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Poisoned Dogs Pay Price in Maryland - Frantic Victim Convicted - Instigating Perp Escapes Unscathed
Baltimoresun.com - The Associated Press - Written by David Dishneau - December 21, 2004
HAGERSTOWN -- A sixth-grade science teacher was convicted today of fatally poisoning a neighbor's dog with antifreeze-laced animal fat after eight years of cussing out barking canines in his upscale neighborhood.
Courtney D. Beard, 59, denied ever having harmed a dog but he acknowledged being irritated by noisy ones -- and their owners.
"They don't have any right to let those dogs out there bark like they do," Beard testified in Washington County District Court. "They bark like mad."
Despite a dearth of direct evidence linking Beard to the poison, Judge John C. Coolahan convicted him of animal cruelty and malicious destruction of property. He fined Beard $600 and ordered him take anger-management classes.
Beard will appeal the verdict to Washington County Circuit Court, said his lawyer, John R. Salvatore.
Beard remains an employee of Washington County Public Schools, where he teaches at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, said Carol Mowen, a school system spokeswoman.
Beard was convicted of poisoning Charlie, an 18-month-old poodle owned by Eric and Shawn Rosenthal, by tossing chunks of tainted fat over the Rosenthal's backyard fence. The Rosenthal's other dog, a collie-spaniel mix named Nikki, recovered from the antifreeze poisoning.
Eric Rosenthal, president of a local furniture store, said he incurred $6,000 in veterinary medical expenses, including sending Charlie to an animal hospital in New York City.
"It just blows me away that someone could actually do this to a poor, helpless animal," Rosenthal said. "You would think a teacher would have a little more restraint and more patience."
Prosecutors alleged that Beard poisoned the dogs on the night of June 27 after a particularly emphatic outburst in which he bellowed at Nikki, "You shut up or I'm going to come over there and shut you up."
Neighbor Carolyn Moser-Smith, a retired federal worker, testified that she witnessed the exchange from her backyard deck. "It sounded like he was panicked and desperate" after repeatedly yelling at the dogs over a 30-minute period, she said. She described the barking as "pretty relentless."
She and others from the Black Rock Estates subdivision, where home prices start at $450,000, portrayed Beard as a private man prone to outbursts of expletives at the sound of a barking dog or the sight of a child or pet on his meticulously tended, three-acre estate.
Salvatore acknowledged that his client had "a short fuse," but he said Beard wasn't violent. "He has a quick flash point. He's over it quickly."
Neighbor J. Michael Nye, a marketing consultant whose two dogs also enraged Beard, said most families in the subdivision east of Hagerstown have canines. "It's a dog community," he said.
Judge Coolahan told Beard that while it was understandable that "you got irritated by animals barking at you, you can't handle the problem by poisoning."
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