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Mt. Pleasant man accused of killing wife's Chihuahua gets plea deal

| Saturday, April 28, 2012, 1:04 a.m.

A Mt. Pleasant Township man, accused of killing his wife's pet Chihuahua, has reached an agreement with prosecutors that will put him on a probation-related program, his attorney said.

Jason L. Rhoades, 29, of 1142 W. Laurel Circle, Norvelt, waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday before Hempfield District Judge James Falcon on an animal cruelty charge.

Rhoades' attorney, Mark Sorice, said the agreement calls for his client to be enrolled in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program, with the terms including community service and counseling. Sorice declined to discuss Rhoades' agreement further. Entry into the program is not an admission of guilt.

State police at Greensburg allege Rhoades killed Nina, a 6-pound Chihuahua, after striking the 3-year-old dog in the head with a broom about 1 a.m. Jan. 12.

An examination showed the dog died of a skull fracture, according to police. A veterinarian determined the death was not an accident and that the injuries had to be inflicted, court papers indicated.

Rhoades' wife, Krystal, contacted police after she awoke on Jan. 12, looked for her dog and found her dead in the garage, according to police. She asked her husband if he killed the dog, and he denied it, police said.

Police said Rhoades admitted during questioning in April that he struck the dog, saying he was trying to separate Nina from another dog, and Nina kept running back to the other dog.

"'I was stressed out from losing my job and several other things going on,"' Jason Rhoades told police. "'I was mad at Nina for going to the bathroom in the house and running away all the time. I just snapped and picked up a broom and hit Nina in the head.' "

He said he was scared of getting into trouble and lied to his wife of two years about killing the dog, police said.

Krystal Rhoades and family members wore a picture of Nina pinned to their shirts at the district judge's office yesterday.

"She was very, very kind. She wasn't the normal Chihuahua that was nasty," Krystal Rhoades said.

"She was the best dog I ever could have. She was a princess. She acted like one, too."

Rhoades said she is still married but living separately from her husband.

"Right now, I'm not sure what we're doing," she said.

Jason Rhoades declined comment.

Krystal Rhoades said she may get another dog.

"Hopefully, it's one just like (Nina)," she said.

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