A guilty plea agreement was reached between prosecutors and the defense in the case of a Pahrump woman shooting a neighbor’s dog to death.
Maria Furtado was arrested and accused of charges including felony animal torture and killing the dog in front of her two children last August.
Additional charges include child abuse, neglect and preventing or dissuading a person from reporting a crime.
Furtado, who was arrested last August, remains in custody until her Dec. 16 sentencing hearing.
Longtime Pahrump animal rights activist Robert Wannberg has been following the case from the beginning.
He said during last Friday’s court hearing, both sides eventually came to an agreement, as Furtado pleaded guilty in district court to two gross misdemeanors, attempting to kill an animal, specifically a dog, and child abuse.
The plea negotiation, at sentencing, gives the judge discretion to tack on an additional 364 days in county jail for each charge, plus a $2,000 fine on each count.
A pre-sentencing investigation report was also ordered by the judge.
Earlier that morning, Furtado entered a guilty plea for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She was sentenced to fine and fees of $340, along with a six-month suspended jail sentence, on the condition she stay out of trouble for one year, attend impulse control counseling, parenting classes and job training.
Furtado has a status hearing set for April 5, 2017 in justice court.
Two additional misdemeanor charges were dismissed.
Wannberg said he was pleased that the defendant was ordered to undergo the evaluation, as he felt Furtado could pose a danger to the community after her release.
“Anybody who would commit such an act, in my opinion, needs a psychological evaluation to determine whether that person is safe to be let out,” he said. “I and others following this case, had reasonable concerns about that.”
Regarding the facts established by prosecutors, Wannberg said the actions of Furtado went beyond the pale of human decency.
Furtado was arrested Aug. 9, 2015, three days after prosecutors said she allegedly removed a neighbor’s six-month-old dog from a leash and drove with her two children into the desert near the Front Sight shooting range, where investigators said she shot the dog twice before telling her older son to shoot the still-alive canine.
The Nye County Sheriff’s Office said Furtado had taken the puppy from a neighbor’s home after she said it attacked and killed Furtado’s two ducklings several days prior.
The investigation revealed that Furtado, who had her two sons in the vehicle at the time, pulled up to her neighbor’s residence, where she walked onto the property, took the puppy from its leash and put it inside her vehicle and drove off.
According to the arrest report, the eldest son told police once they arrived at the site, Furtado removed the puppy from the car while holding a pistol and told the 15-year-old to walk his younger brother away to distract him from the act.
Moments later the boy told police he heard two gunshots, followed by growls and whimpering.
The boy then took his brother back to the car and walked to his mother, who was holding the dog in the air by its leash as the dog was yelping, bleeding from the head and trying to go after Furtado.
The boy also told police he saw the gun on the ground, at which time his mother told him to retrieve the gun and shoot the dog again.
The report stated the boy saw that the gun became jammed, but was able to fix the jam and allegedly shot the dog “two or three more times” at the request of his mother.
The 15-year-old also told police when he and his mother got back to the car, the 3-year-old was overheard saying “gun shoot dog,” which led police to believe the child had actually witnessed the shootings.
Wannberg said he recently drove to the crime scene along Tecopa Road on the one-year anniversary of the killing.
“This is a very tragic case all around and this puppy “Duke,” suffered terribly,” he said. “I drove past Front Sight and tried to imagine what these children and this dog felt on the 40-mile drive to his death. I imagined this puppy thinking he was going on a joy ride, playing with the two children with him inside the car, only to be brutally executed at the end of that ride, not to mention the emotional trauma to these young children. It made me extremely sad.”
Regarding the guilty plea agreement, he said he thought it was not unfair.
“As an animal advocate, and hundreds share my view, we would have liked her to plead to at least one felony charge,” he said. “Every case is unique, as it should be. We are hoping the judge hears our voice as animal advocates as we try and speak for the animals that cannot, nor can they defend themselves from a crime such as this.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at email@example.com