OCEANSIDE — A young mother overwhelmed with her career and family didn’t realize her two dogs were starving to death in her backyard, a defense attorney said May 13 in a Vista courtroom.
As Maria Theresa Connor, 26, wiped the tears from her eyes, her attorney, Rick Crawford, argued that the two felony counts of animal negligence against her should be reduced to a misdemeanor and that his client wasn’t the “evil doer” portrayed by the prosecution.
“This was a matter of her having too many things to do with her life,” Crawford told the court.
However, Deputy District Attorney Katherine Flaherty said, “it was hard not to be concerned about a dependent being that relies on Ms. Connor — human or animal.”
“She let the neglect ripen into something that was horrific for the neighbors,” Flaherty told the judge. “Her level of neglect, for whatever reason, is legally unacceptable.”
Citing the circumstances of the case as well as Connor’s lack of a criminal record and her current six-year enlistment in the Navy, Superior Court Judge Joel Pressman reduced the two charges of animal neglect to misdemeanors.
If convicted, Connor, who now resides in San Diego, faces up to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine, Flaherty said outside the courtroom.
Still teary eyed after her preliminary hearing, Connor, a mother of four young children, declined to comment on the case.
A neighbor alerted authorities to the two crying dogs, who had been tied up in Connor’s backyard living in their own waste, testified Officer Danielle Sorahan of the North County Humane Society. When she arrived at Connor’s Oceanside residence last Oct. 30, Sorahan said she found a dead Jack Russell terrier and a severely malnourished Labrador mix.
Connor said the last time she fed the dogs was two days earlier, Sorahan said.
The surviving dog was taken to the humane society where it was nursed back to health and eventually adopted.
Connor told authorities the reason the dogs were tied up was because their backyard fence had fallen down and the landlord was slow to fix it, Sorahan said.
The dogs were licensed to Connor’s husband, Jeremy Connor, a Marine who was on deployment in Iraq at the time of his wife’s arrest, the officer said.
A trial date was set for July 9. Connor remains free on bail.