Loony Virginia Judge Lets Career Criminal Go Free After He Stomps to Death a Fourteen-Year-Old Arthritic Cat
J. Howe Brown Jr., a substitute Circuit Court judge in Loudoun County, Virginia, is obviously either crazy or an ailurophobe. In either case, he should be removed from the bench. Last week he let career criminal Peter Landrith, 39, of Leesburg (See photo below) go scot-free after he had earlier on October 7th found him guilty of maliciously stomping to death a fourteen-year-old, declawed, arthritic cat named Luke (See photo above) on October 15th of 2004.
For cosmetic reasons, Brown did give Landrith a three-year suspended sentence and place him on probation for five years. He also ordered him to undergo mental observation, barred him from owning any pets for the remainder of his life, and directed him to maintain steady employment and a stable living situation but that is all! After he had beaten the rap, Landrith turned to the courtroom gallery and grinned with evil pleasure. Earlier he had dismissed Luke's murder as a "smear campaign."
The case began when Landrith was living at the Leesburg townhouse of his then girlfriend Allyn Cornell. Also living at the residence were Cornell's thirty-one-year-old son, Chad, and four of Allyn's cats. Luke belonged to another of Cornell's sons, Brent, 25, who at the time of the attack was away on his honeymoon.
At the trial, Landrith treated the court to a cock-and-bull story about how he had stomped Luke to death after the cat had bitten him on the leg following a tussle over a tuna sandwich which he had dropped on the floor. Chad Cornell, however, testified that he discovered Landrith in a basement storeroom repeatedly stomping the defenseless cat inside a trash can. Landrith was also found to be in possession of a pair of latex gloves and there was a plastic trash bag underneath the cat. More importantly, there was not any tuna sandwich in sight and in fact a liverwurst sandwich which Allyn had made him for lunch was still upstairs on the kitchen table when she returned home later.
When Chad pulled Luke from the trash can his hind legs were bloody and his chest was heaving. The poor cat died on the way to the office of veterinarian Clinton L. Pease Jr. An autopsy performed later by Pease found that the blows which had taken Luke's life had also caused his stomach to fill up with blood.
Although Judge Brown told the courtroom that he did not believe Landrith's outrageous self-defense claim, he gave no explanation for letting him off without jail time. Landrith was shown at trial to be a convicted thief and drunk driver as well as a liar and a ne'er-do-well with no permanent job or abode to his name. Despite all of that, Allyn, who has since broken up with him, told the Washington Post by telephone that she was pleased that he had not been given any jail time. (See "Cat-Stomper Given Probation, Barred from Owning Animals," January 11, 2006)
The case attracted worldwide interest and the prosecuting attorney received as many as one-hundred-fifty letters, e-mails, and faxes from places as far away as Greece. Even the late comedian Richard Pryor and his wife, Jennifer, wrote to denounce Landrith as "clearly a threat to society."
The fact that under Virginia law the harshest sentence that Landrith could have received would have been five years in the stir is outrageous enough in itself. Moreover, Judge Brown's decision to let him walk is indefensible not only on account of what he did to defenseless Luke but because of what he is likely to do to other animals and people in the future -- regardless of whether he gets caught.
As for Luke, Brent Cornell testified that the marmalade feline, who happily wore sweaters and Christmas hats, was a passive cat. "He would sort of melt in your arms," he said.
Instead of being allowed to live out his remaining years in peace, this beautiful cat had his life horribly stomped out by a no-good, cat-hating psychopath. By setting Landrith free Judge Brown has joined the ranks of General District Court Judge Donald P. McDonough of Fairfax County who recently let cat hoarder Ruth Knueven off with a paltry $500 fine. (See Cat Defender post of December 23, 2005 entitled "Virginia Cat Hoarder Who Killed 221 Cats and Kept Another 354 in Abominable Conditions Gets Off With $500 Fine") The message from judges in Virginia is clear: kill and abuse cats to your heart's content and you will get away with it.
Photos: Brent Cornell (Luke) and www.Leesburg2day.com (Peter Landrith).