A 14-year-old Oceanside girl who terrorized neighborhoods by burglarizing and vandalizing homes and killing, maiming and stealing household pets was sentenced Thursday to a 24-hour residential treatment program--perhaps until she is 21--to undergo psychological counseling.
The teen-ager will probably remain in custody for at least several years, not only for her own good but for the peace of mind of the public, Deputy Dist. Atty. Karen I. Doty said. But the exact length of the sentence will depend on the speed of her rehabilitation, Doty said.
"I haven't seen any cases where a young juvenile was involved in such extensive cruelty to animals or such extensive vandalism," Doty said.
Juvenile Court Judge Napoleon Jones ordered the girl, unidentified because of her age, to be designated a ward of the court. He also told her parents--who remained silent during Thursday's proceedings--to attend parenting classes, participate in their daughter's counseling and undergo counseling themselves if the San Diego County Probation Department deems it necessary.
To return the girl to her parents now, Jones said, would put her emotional well-being at risk.
The girl allegedly burglarized and vandalized 19 homes in Vista and Oceanside during a bizarre, 18-month crime spree that ended in September. She later pleaded guilty to what authorities would only describe as "multiple counts" of animal torture and vandalism.
Doty said the girl caused more than $40,000 worth of damage and killed four pets: a German shepherd puppy she placed in an oven, a rabbit she cut open with a knife, a parakeet she smashed against a wall and goldfish whose water she poisoned.
Other animals were maimed--including a dog whose testicles were rubbed with a caustic solution--and still others were stolen by her, then returned to the owner with a request for reward money, Doty said.
The girl was finally caught by a San Diego County sheriff's deputy after witnesses described a girl loitering in their neighborhoods. The deputy then checked with local schools on their truant students to come up with the girl's name.
Doty said several factors contributed to the girl's behavior: a learning disability, truancy, and family and personal problems that the prosecutor would not detail. Even so, Doty said, the exact reason for the crimes remains unclear.
"I (still) want to know why, and I'm left to draw my own conclusions," Doty said. "Even she didn't ultimately come up with a reason why. Her family background may have played a part, or her own psychological makeup."
The girl was technically sentenced to 10 years, eight months in custody, but because of juvenile court laws, she won't be held beyond her 21st birthday unless compelling reasons develop to keep her longer, Doty said.
Still to be determined is which residential care facility will take her, Doty said. The Probation Department will send her file to several treatment centers, and the court will then decide which could help her most.
Her progress will be monitored in six months and again in a year, "but I don't know if she'll remain in custody for three years or all seven," Doty said. "She faces extensive treatment over a long period of time."
The girl was also ordered to pay $1,421 in restitution to her victims--the amount of losses not covered by insurance--and to stay away from animals unless she has the consent of the Probation Department.