ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Five dogs were horrifically killed in a St. Louis “House of Horrors” earlier this year, and the man convicted in that attack learned his sentence Thursday morning.
31-year-old Darick Stallworth showed no emotion as he stood before circuit judge Margaret Neill in his dull orange prison-issued jumpsuit.
Neill sentenced Stallworth to serve four years on each of three felony convictions for aggravated animal abuse, to be served concurrently.
He was given another 15 days on each of two misdemeanor charges of animal neglect, also to be served at the same time as the other terms.
Employees and volunteers of Stray Rescue cheered loudly as founder Randy Grim walked out of the courthouse following the sentencing.
He said a four-year prison term for brutally killing several dogs “is a start”.
“This case will haunt me for the rest of my life,” Grim told reporters. “This case will haunt my staff for the rest of their lives. It’s ingrained in my brain forever and it’s like a nightmare that’s always in the back of your mind.”
Defense attornies for Stallworth petitioned Circuit Judge Margaret Neill for leniency, asking that he be given only probation because he has no criminal past and an IQ of only 54.
“This is like a lynch mob for a retard, you understand?,” said Herbert Harris, Darick Stallworth’s stepfather after the hearing. “He’s never been in trouble with his life!”
Harris and Stallworth’s mother, Debra Henry, said sending him to prison served no purpose because what he needs is counseling and rehabilitation, to become a productive member of society.
But Judge Neill agreed with prosecutor Anna Kratky’s recommendation of four years in prison, recalling testimony from those who discovered the dogs’ bodies that the scene in an abandoned apartment on Wells Avenue resembled a “dog torture chamber” and displayed a “blatant in-your-face disregard for life”.
“The torture that happened in that house wasn’t anything that (people in) my office or even Stray Rescue had seen before,” Kratky later told KMOX by phone. “These dogs were tortured, some of their skin had been scraped off. All of them were killed in the same way, by wrapping a cable cord around their neck.”
Grim, Stray Rescue’s founder, said the sentence and the recent formation of an animal abuse task force within the St. Louis Metropolitan police department, should send a clear message.
“And that message is…’Abuse animals like this and you’re going to lose your freedom’,” Grim said. “This is a new day in St. Louis, and I want to see this become one of the most humane cities in the country, not just with the animals but with each other.”