By Jean Cole
A Madison man accused of fatally shooting a neighbor’s puppy then trying to dispose of it by fire is scheduled for a bench trial at 9 a.m. July 18, according to Limestone County Circuit Court Clerk Charles Page Jr.
The same court date is set for the neighbor whose dog was shot. He is charged with allowing dogs to run at large.
Jimmy Tunstill, 61, of 10800 Cedar Acres Lane, is charged with failing to bury livestock for allegedly shooting 6-month-old “Mitzy,” a black Labrador retriever owned by neighbors Billy Gatlin and his daughter, Brandi, on Jan. 10.
Tunstill pleaded not guilty to the charge Wednesday in District Court, and a bench trial was set, Page said.
The News Courier originally reported the bench trial had been set for Wednesday.
Tunstill’s neighbor, Billy Gatlin, 44, of 10820 Cedar Acres Lane, is schedule to appear in court on his charge the same day as Tunstill.
Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely has said Tunstill told officials he shot the puppy Tuesday, Jan. 10, because he believed it was trying to get into the pen containing his chickens. Tunstill also admitted burning the dead puppy on a brush pile near his home in order to conceal its death from his neighbors, the sheriff said.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the Gatlin home about 5:15 p.m. that day by Gatlin and his daughter, who wanted to report animal cruelty in the shooting and burning of their puppy. After reporting their puppy missing, the Gatlins had called the Sheriff’s Department after finding the dog’s remains on Tunstill’s brush pile. Blakely confirmed there had been an “ongoing problem” with the Gatlins’ puppy entering Tunstill’s property and that Tunstill had reported the puppy to animal-control officers in the past. According to Gatlins’ statements filed with the court, Brandi stated she had asked Tunstill earlier in the day if he had seen the puppy and he said he had not. Billy stated Tunstill had called animal control about the puppy that day, that an animal-control officer had brought out a trap and that the puppy was all right when the officer was there.
Sheriff’s officials investigated the complaint but made no arrests. They filed a report with a recommendation and let District Court Judge Jeanne Anderson decide what charges, if any, should be brought. Tunstill was subsequently charged with failing to bury livestock and Billy Gatlin was charged with permitting a puppy to run at large, records show.