A young man accused of brutally killing his Jack Russell terrier while suffering a psychotic break was arraigned in court Thursday and charged with one count of felony animal cruelty.
Ryan Gee, a 27-year-old San Mateo resident with serious ongoing mental health problems, pleaded not guilty to allegedly strangling his dog then using a knife to cut up the carcass before burning it in a barbecue grill Jan. 23. He had no prior criminal record in San Mateo County and could face up to three years incarceration, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Gee bought his dog, named Tipsy, with his girlfriend while attending the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2006, Wagstaffe said.
After breaking up with his girlfriend, Gee and Tipsy moved in with Gee’s mother in San Mateo in 2010, Wagstaffe said. Gee was very loving with Tipsy and the two played regularly, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
However, Gee had ongoing serious mental health problems and, on the evening of Jan. 23, he was suffering a psychotic break during which he believed the dog was a demon and heard voices telling him to kill his dog, Wagstaffe said.
He then strangled Tipsy and used a knife to cut up his dog after it was deceased before finally burning it in his backyard barbecue, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Gee’s mother and sister saw nothing unusual occur that night, Gee didn’t appear angry, the dog didn’t mess on the floor, however, the next morning the sister woke up and smelled something burning in the backyard, Wagstaffe said.
When she asked Gee where the dog was he apparently acted bizarrely and said the dog ran away, Wagstaffe said.
Gee’s family discovered Tipsy’s remains in the barbecue grill and called authorities who placed Gee on a section 5150 psychiatric hold, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
As Gee’s actions constitute animal cruelty, the Peninsula Humane Society took the investigative lead in the sad and horrific case, PHS spokesman Scott Delucchi said.
“There are obviously different levels from this. One, from the animal’s standpoint, it’s horrific, we’ve never seen anything like it,” Delucchi said. “The other level, is the person involved and there was some kind of break and really, from the PHS standpoint, our hope is that the person is not around animals and that he gets the professional help that he needs. We understand that there’s a human side of it, but just again, from the animal side of it, it’s obviously best if he’s not around animals.”
Most of the cases the PHS sees have more to do with neglect, intentional or not, but sadly, they do see heinous crimes against animals “where someone has gone out of their way to just inflict pain or harm or suffering on an animal,” Delucchi said.
In this case, it appears mental illness played a role, however, Gee’s actions are “like something that someone would see in a horror movie, except that this really happened,” said Delucchi.
Delucchi said he is thankful the county has a district attorney who takes animal cruelty cases very seriously yet he recognizes there was more at play in this case.
One of the reasons this case stands out was the method in which the dog was killed, Wagstaffe said.
“The other is just a reminder of what mental health issues can cause, can provoke in people. As everyone knows, jails are called the number one mental health facilities in the world. There are more people suffering from mental health ... in our jails and prisons than in hospitals,” Wagstaffe said. “The reason they’re in jail (is) while suffering from mental illness, they engage in criminal conduct.”
Gee’s defense attorney Ross Green said he could not comment on the case, however, a pretrial conference has been scheduled July 15 and a jury trial Aug. 4.
Gee is out on $50,000 bail.
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