WILMINGTON — Christopher Anthony Simpson was given a multi-part sentence today after accepting a plea deal. Simpson pleaded guilty to one count of felony animal cruelty after fatally beating a puppy named Axel.
Superior Court Judge R. Kent Harrell sentenced Simpson to 36 months of supervised probation, with 20 days of detention at the New Hanover County Detention Facility to be served at the direction of the probation office. Those 20 days would be in addition to the time served since Jan. 23, when Simpson was taken into custody. Simpson faced a maximum of 39 months in prison.
Harrell also barred Simpson from owning any animal during the period of his probation.
Harrell spoke frankly with Simpson, saying that – as the owner of three dogs – he could not imagine the level of anger necessary to beat an animal as badly as Simpson had. Harrell noted the cruelty to animals is “one of the things we see in psychopaths,” and expressed concerns about Simpson’s future behavior.
Harrell echoed comments made by the prosecution, saying that a jail sentence would not allow the state to supervise Simpson after he was released. Instead, Harrell said, a structured sentencing would allow the state to impose further requirement and restrictions on Simpson.
To that end, Harrell also mandated three programs for Simpson: a mental health evaluation, an anger management class and a substance abuse class.
In addition to these conditions, Simpson will be required to $187 in restitution to the Paws and Claws clinic where Axel’s necropsy was performed. He will also pay $240 to Southeastern Pet Cremation, where Axel’s body was cremated.
A final issue was Simpson’s relationship with girlfriend Alyssa Croom, whose mother Tammy Croom owned Axel; the two have a 2-year-old daughter. Alyssa Croom appeared in court to support Simpson. The court did not place any custody restrictions on Simpson, but did forbid him from setting foot on the property of Tammy Croom. Simpson maintains his own residence in Leland.
‘Never seen an animal beaten so badly beaten’
Simpson was arrested in January, charged with the Christmas Day killing of a yellow Labrador puppy named Axel. Axel been adopted from the county’s animal shelter in early December by the parents of Alyssa Croom, Simpson’s girlfriend. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Simpson violently beat the puppy after it urinated on the floor of the Crooms residence.
A veterinarian who performed a post-mortem examination on Axel told the Sheriff’s Office at the time he had “never seen an animal so badly beaten.” The vet said Axel had suffered severe and repeated blunt trauma and internal bleeding, comparing the condition of the dog’s battered liver to “ground hamburger.”
Justice for Axel
Simpson’s case has been the focal point for local animal rights activists. Organized as the Justice for Axel group, members have demonstrated at several court dates. Founded by Pender County animal activist Rosey Milazzo, and currently run Tammy Croom, Axel’s owner, the group quickly grew to several thousand members.
The group has attempted to use Simpson’s case to draw attention to what they see as unnecessarily lax state laws against animal cruelty.
Group members have also protested the lack of strict enforcement – that is, the application of maximum felony sentences – in cases of animal cruelty.
History of violence
The prosecution has noted that this is not the first time Simpson has been accused of animal cruelty or other violent acts. In July of 2015, Simpson was charged with injuring a 3-month-old kitten belonging to Alyssa Croom. According to the Brunswick County District Attorney’s office, the case was disposed when Croom, the prosecution’s witness, decided not to testify and the charges were dropped.
According to Brunswick County court records, Simpson was also charged with assaulting Croom – while she was pregnant with his child – but she again did not cooperate with the District Attorney’s office in pressing charges.
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