VISTA, Calif. — A former Navy man accused of torturing and disfiguring his next-door neighbors’ dogs over a period of months in Oceanside, poisoning them, burning them with acid and gouging out one of their eyes, was ordered Friday to stand trial on animal cruelty and other charges.
David Christopher Herbert faces 16 years in prison if convicted.
The 36-year-old defendant allegedly tormented his neighbors — two successive sets of residents — beginning late last year by puncturing tires on their cars, trespassing in their home, and stealing and mutilating their dogs, one of whom remains missing and is presumed dead.
Maria Morales Juares testified during a three-day preliminary hearing that she came home from running errands April 28 to find one of her two husky dogs burned with a caustic chemical and the other with her eye gouged out.
Morales said she and her family moved out of their rental home the next day.
Oceanside police said Herbert allegedly committed similar crimes against the people who subsequently moved into the home.
On May 30, the new residents reported their two dogs missing. One of the animals was recovered by a neighbor, but the second, a German shepherd-golden retriever mix named Lala, has not been found. Investigators believe Lala was subjected to “a violent assault” and likely killed, said OPD spokesman Tom Bussey.
Authorities have no idea what might have prompted the seeming vendetta against the suspect’s neighbors and their dogs, he said.
Judge Robert Dahlquist ruled that enough evidence was presented during the preliminary hearing for Herbert to stand trial.
A readiness conference was set for Sept. 20 and trial for Oct. 11.