An Annapolis man on Thursday received the maximum sentence, three years, for the killing of his girlfriend's puppy, which Anne Arundel County prosecutors said was part of a two-year pattern of domestic violence.
The sentence was what prosecutors sought for what they called one of most gruesome attacks on a pet coupled with domestic abuse - a combination that experts say is common.
Donte W. McCreary, 20, killed the 3-month-old terrier in front of his girlfriend because she cared more for it than for him, the prosecutor said.
"If this is what he will do to a dog that he thinks she loves more than him, I don't know what he would think of doing [to] a child," said Assistant State's Attorney Kimberly DiPietro, noting that the couple has a 15-month-old son.
McCreary pleaded guilty before Judge Paul A. Hackner to a Christmas Eve 2008 assault on girlfriend Laura Sanford and to felony animal cruelty in the March 7 killing of the 4-pound dog, which he squeezed and stabbed.
Hackner also sentenced McCreary to the maximum 10 years in prison for second-degree assault, suspending seven years and adding five years of supervised probation.
Seeking a shorter sentence, Assistant Public Defender Stacy McCormack said McCreary, who has a juvenile record and was diagnosed with depression, has received help in jail and is "not the same person he was" before his arrest.
Sanford left the courtroom after the judge told her to stop talking.
Details of the dog's death had observers whispering and gasping.
Talk of continuing violence led the victim's mother to cry. She later said she fears for her grandson as well as for her daughter.
"Ms. Sanford, and I cannot explain it, is still visiting [McCreary] at the Detention Center," DiPietro told the judge.