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A former school resource officer and Lieutenant with the Cherokee County, Georgia Police Department has been cleared of all but one charge – making a false statement to police – following the death of his K9 partner and the discovery of two additional K9 dogs killed while in his care.
Cherokee County Police K9 Inca was found dead in a patrol car on June 10, 2016, after her handler, Cherokee County Lt. Dan Peabody, a school resource officer, left the dog alone in the vehicle for several hours while temperatures outside reached into the low 90’s. A necropsy confirmed that Inca died as a result of heat stroke.
Inca’s death prompted a standard police investigation which revealed this wasn’t the first time a police dog had died in Peabody’s care. Before being partnered with Inca, Lt. Peabody was partnered with another police K9, a yellow Lab named Dale. Dale worked alongside his handler from 2007 until 2012 when he retired. After his retirement, the K9 was turned over to Lt. Peabody where he was to live out the remainder of his life as a beloved family pet.
Shortly after retiring from K9 duties, however, Dale was dead. Peabody reported that Dale had died accidentally after he choked on a toy and passed away in the home. But, while conducting a search warrant of the Peabody home and property after Inca’s death, investigators found remains believed to be those of Dale buried on the property. A necropsy revealed the dog had been shot. After the discovery was made, Peabody admitted that Dale had not choked to death on a toy, but that the officer had shot and killed him.
Forensic investigators then determined that the set of remains found at Peabody’s home actually belonged to a Belgian Malinois, not Dale, a yellow Labrador retriever. Investigators believed the remains found actually belonged to K9 Inca’s grandmother.
Despite their findings, Peabody was only charged on 3 counts: 2 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals in connection with K9 Inca’s death, and 1 count of making a false statement to police during the investigation. He was not indicted in connection with either of the other two dog deaths.
But, in a January 18 ruling in the Cherokee Superior Court, Judge Jackson Harris threw out both animal cruelty charges, leaving only the charge of making false statements to police to stand.
Prosecutors appealed the court’s decision and are currently awaiting a decision from the Court of Appeals. They plan to seek re-indictment on all counts against Peabody if the Court of Appeals does not rule in their favor.