A 32-year-old woman said she felt like she was robbed of her babies when her boyfriend beat her three dogs to death in San Diego.
A judge on Tuesday delayed sentencing to Nov. 18 for 25-year-old Patrick Caleb Land, who has pleaded guilty to felony animal cruelty charges. The judge let the girlfriend and her sister address him because they traveled from Virginia and are unable to return later this month.
Strain and her sister were allowed to speak in court because they traveled from their homes in Herndon, Va., and cannot return to San Diego.
"My dogs were my babies. Their happiness was my No. 1 priority," Strain told Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers.
She said she initially accepted Land's explanation that the first dog died of accidental choking in September 2010. She became suspicious, however, when her two other dogs died a month later and she saw scratches on Land's arm.
A veterinarian who performed autopsies said the two dogs killed in October 2010 appeared to have been wearing restraining devices on their heads to prevent them from biting or barking. Land's DNA was found under one dog's nail.
Rogers set the maximum prison sentence at five years, four months under an agreement he made with Land. Prosecutors plan to ask that he be confined to prison for eight years, eight months — the most allowed under state law.
Strain told reporters that her six-month courtship with Land was waning when the dogs were killed. They met through mutual friends and had been living together in San Diego for a few months with Strain's 9-year-old white Shepard mix, 4-year-old mixed breed, and Great Pyrenees and Golden Retriever mix.
Land, who was extradited from North Carolina to face charges, stood silently in handcuffs and appeared sullen as his former girlfriend called him a chronic liar and manipulator. Strain said she had made mistakes in life, such as quitting college, but she was always happy until her dogs were killed.
"What EDK did really turned my life upside down," Strain said.
After the dogs died, she moved to Virginia to be with her parents and a sister who had adopted the dogs with her. She had moved to San Diego because she knew the city to be dog-friendly.
Strain said Land continued to send her text messages from North Carolina after the dogs died, declaring his love for her and asking if she loved him.