Release sought in dog shooting

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The cost of housing an inmate outside Belmont County who was convicted of shooting and killing his neighbor’s two dogs could play a role in whether a judge grants him early release.

Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra is considering such factors as Michael Chedester’s remorse, as well as the expense of housing him out-of-county. Chedester, 59, of St. Clairsville has served almost three months of his six-month jail sentence.

Chedester was sentenced in May to three years of community controls and six months in jail for the killing of two dogs who had gotten loose and onto his property while he was hunting. According to the prosecutor’s office, there was no justification for the act, which occurred while Chedester was situated in a tree stand.

He was convicted under Goddard’s Law, which increases the charge of harm to companion animals from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Chedester appeared before Vavra on Monday with attorney Don Tennant to request early release. Tennant pointed out Chedester’s lack of a prior criminal record and his good behavior while incarcerated.

“This time spent has been very sobering for Mr. Chedester. It has actually been a horrific event for him in his life. He found himself in difficult situations while he was incarcerated,” Tennant said.

“This has been a sentence that has sobered him and he appreciates liberty and freedom much more so now after having been punished for the bad mistake that he made.”

As part of his sentence, Chedester will no longer be permitted to possess firearms. He has also paid a court-mandated $5,000 to the animal shelter.

Chedester expressed remorse and a desire to help others.

Belmont County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan said the state opposes early release.

Vavra said he would take these matters into account while making his decision, adding this would also depend on the suggested monitoring program.

“There’s other relevant factors as well,” Vavra said, noting the cost of housing inmates out of county.

Due to serious overcrowding, the Belmont County Board of Commissioners has entered into an agreement to house inmates in Jefferson County. Chedester is one such inmate.Vavra ordered Monday he be moved back to the Belmont County Jail until he makes his decision on early release.

“It’s my understanding that the county just paid $150,000 in tax money to Jefferson County. … Instead of serving it in jail and the county taxpayers paying for it, he would serve it at his own cost at his residence,” Vavra said.

According to Jefferson County Jail, Chedester has been housed at the facility since July 27. Vavra ordered Monday he be moved back to the Belmont County Jail until he makes his decision on early release.

In other matters, David Carl Kinney, 30, of Brilliant, appeared in court for a brief status hearing. He is accused of murder with a firearm specification in the fatal shooting of Brad McGarry, 43, at McGarry’s home in Bellaire.

A request by Kinney’s defense for a forensic psychiatrist and pathologist has been approved, and his trial remains set for Nov. 27.