The Morgan Hill man accused of dragging his sick dog across a
paved sidewalk is unable to stand trial due to his ongoing mental
health problems, according to Santa Clara County Superior
The Morgan Hill man accused of dragging his sick dog across a paved sidewalk is unable to stand trial due to his ongoing mental health problems, according to Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Meanwhile, Snowflake, the 25-pound Australian cattle dog that Kevin Fifield, 60, is accused of mistreating was euthanized in December on recommendation from her veterinarian, Fifield’s attorney Milton Gonzalez said.
When Fifield was notified of his dog’s death, he “broke down” at the county jail, where he remains in custody until he is placed in a state mental health facility.
“Snowflake went quietly,” Gonzalez said. “Both Kevin and Marcy (Powers, Fifield’s wife) took it very hard, but she’s in a better place.”
Fifield, of Morgan Hill, was declared incompetent Wednesday to participate in normal court proceedings in his animal cruelty case. He will attend another hearing at the courthouse in San Jose Jan. 12, where Superior Court Judge Philip Pennypacker will determine to what state hospital he will be admitted for treatment.
“He will remain at the hospital until doctors deem his competency is restored,” Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Amy Cornell said. “When his competency is restored, Fifield would return to Santa Clara County to face the charges he originally faced.”
Fifield is charged with one felony count of cruelty to animals, plus two counts of resisting arrest.
The judge’s declaration of Fifield’s lack of competency does not mean he is guilty, Gonzalez noted.
“It just means he’s not competent to understand the nature of the charges, and to assist in defending his case,” Gonzalez said.
The charges were filed following a July 27, 2010 incident in which he dragged his cancer-stricken dog on a paved sidewalk near Monterey Road and Second Street, police said. Witnesses called police when they saw Fifield allegedly mistreating Snowflake.
When police arrived at the scene, Fifield threatened them and resisted arrest, police said.
Police said when they arrived at the scene, Snowflake’s paws and nails were bleeding from being dragged along the pavement.
Fifield pleaded not guilty to the charges in September. In a later hearing, Gonzalez said the defendant’s dependence on prescription drugs and alcohol should be addressed by the court before the criminal proceedings continue.
Fifield was released from custody on bail shortly after his arrest in July, but was detained again Sept. 30 when he failed to appear for a scheduled hearing. Judge Ray Cunningham issued a $500,000 warrant for his arrest, and police found him the same day at the M & H Tavern in Morgan Hill. He has remained in custody since.
The exact type and nature of the mental health problems that plague Fifield are not yet determined, Gonzalez explained. Upon being admitted to a state mental health facility, Fifield will undergo a more comprehensive evaluation, and he will be evaluated periodically until his health improves and his doctors and the court find he is competent.
It is unknown if Fifield’s dependence on alcohol and prescription medications have caused or contributed to his lack of understanding of the case against him, Gonzalez said. However, the attorney added, Fifield’s health has improved since he has been in custody and unable to consume alcohol.
“Now that alcohol is eliminated from his diet, he appears to be more comprehensible. But he’s still at the point where he’s not 100 percent, and not even where he understands the nature of his charges,” Gonzalez said.
Snowflake, who Fifield and his wife Marcy Powers rescued several years ago, suffered from cancer and a spinal birth defect that left the dog permanently disabled, Powers explained in previous hearings. She and other acquaintances of Fifield testified in a bail hearing in September that Fifield and Snowflake enjoyed each other’s company, and the dog missed him while he was incarcerated.
Snowflake’s veterinarian recommended she be euthanized because she had become “very weak,” Gonzalez said. The dog was put down a few days before last week’s competency hearing.