Veteran Convicted of Torturing Neighbors' Dogs on List for Early Release

David Herbert, an honorably discharged disabled veteran, was sentenced to nearly nine years behind bars. He has served just 17 months

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Warning: the details of this story may be disturbing to some readers.

An Oceanside Navy veteran convicted of torturing his neighbors' dogs is on the list for early release.

David Herbert, an honorably discharged disabled veteran, was sentenced to nearly nine years behind bars. He has served just 17 months.

Michelle Plaketta fears her former next-door neighbor will be released from prison anytime now.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials told NBC 7 that, because Herbert's parole date falls within COVID-19 early release guidelines, he may be eligible to get out.

The program is for nonviolent offenders. Herbert was convicted based on evidence that he beat a therapy dog to death with a bat.

"In the last 24 hours, I have not slept," said Plaketta, a mother of four, who has moved twice now because of her former neighbor Herbert. "I have not been able to eat. I fear that somebody will break into my home to hurt my children. When he was still out on bail, I was always looking over my shoulder."

In May 2017, Lala, the therapy dog of Plaketta's daughter, went missing just two days after Plaketta's family moved in next to Herbert.

After a lengthy investigation, it was determined that Herbert killed the golden retriever.

"They found blood on a baseball bat and her blood inside his vehicle," Plaketta said. "It was heartbreaking, definitely, to know the last moments of her life ended in that kind of act."

Herbert was also found guilty of gouging out the eye of Maria Morales' husky Estrella and throwing acid in her other dog's face. The Morales family rented the house next to Herbert's before the Plakettas.

"You see it in horror movies -- you think that that's what is a horror movie," she said.

Plaketta was notified Wednesday by the district attorney's victim's unit of Herbert's potential release.

In a statement sent to NBC 7, District Attorney Summer Stephan wrote: "We're very concerned about the potential impact on the safety of our community due to the early releases by CDCR of prisoners who have committed serious crimes. CDCR is making these decisions without input or agreement by our office. Our office is working hard to support crime victims affected by these releases by notifying them and helping them to stay safe."

"Without even finding out who we are and how we feel, they are just making a choice who to release," Plaketta said.

The Oceanside Police Department said it was not notified of the decision, either.

"Neither the Oceanside Police Department, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office nor the victims were consulted prior to this decision being made, and the Oceanside Police Department does not have any involvement and/or influence in such a decision," the department said in a statement.

The agency added that it is unknown where Herbert will live if he is released. That information is not subject to becoming public.

A CDCR spokesman told NBC 7 that Herbert's original parole date was February 2021. The prospect of early release has Plaketta thinking of yet another move.

"If he can do what he did to Lala in less then 48 hours of us moving next to him, what will he do to me?" Plaketta said.

Plaketta has been in contact with the department of corrections, asking to be heard. She wants to halt Herbert's early release or at least prevent him from serving his parole in San Digo County.

Victims can find more information on their rights here.

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