San Diego

Victim Gives Emotional Testimony in Case Against Navy Veteran Accused of Abusing Dogs

Prosecutors say Maria Morales' dogs, Estrella and Cocayo were poisoned and doused with acid

Warning: the details of this story may disturb some. 

An Oceanside mother described the emotional moment she came home with her 4-year-old son and found her two Huskies brutally hurt inside her home in court Wednesday.

The testimony came during a preliminary hearing for David Herbert, a U.S. Navy veteran accused in six reported criminal cases that occurred at the same residence on Carino Way, according to the Oceanside Police Department. He was arrested after a six-month-long investigation. 

Herbert faces five charges of animal abuse, four charges of vandalism, two charges of petty theft and one charge each of residential burglary and using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony.

He pleaded not guilty on Aug. 11.

Prosecutors said Maria Morales' dogs, Estrella and Cocayo were poisoned and doused with acid in April.

In court, Morales described walking into her home with her 4-year-old son and finding their two Huskies brutally attacked inside the home. One of Estrella's eyes were plucked out, she testified.

Morales said she moved out of the home the same day with her children.

She told the court that she had also been followed by Herbert and had seen him several times at LA Fitness.

"At the time, I thought it had been at the gym and I called to ask them to check the cameras," Morales said through a translator.

But Herbert's defense attorney said his client is not a member there and has not ever been there.

Soon after Morales moved out, new residents moved in with their dogs.

Police said the neighbors reported both their dogs missing on May 30.

A neighbor found one of the dogs, but Lala, a Golden Retriever, never came home.

Video surveillance shows Herbert took Lala in his car, according to police.

An investigation found evidence of Lala’s saliva and blood in Herbert’s car. She is believed to have been the victim of a violent assault, according to authorities.

Police said the abused dogs are recovering, except for Lala, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

As the preliminary hearing unfolded inside, several Oceanside residents brought their dogs to the court to protest Herbert. 

Tanya Meyers, an Oceanside resident told NBC 7, the incidents hit close to home. She has two adopted dogs that she says are like her children.

"These dogs have no voice," Meyers said, adding that Herbert deserves to be behind bars for the alleged crime.

If convicted, Herbert could face 16 years in prison. Some, like Meyers, believe he should receive the full sentence if convicted. 

"He’s looking at 16 years and I think he needs to fully get the 16 years," she said.

Herbert owned no animals of his own and had none in his residence.

Contact Us