Crime

Bellingham man who shot corgi dies before trial

A Bellingham man accused of shooting a corgi to death because of barking in the neighborhood — even though it was another dog barking — died following a medical emergency last week.

David Latham, 56, shot the dog, Molly, with a small-caliber rifle on a Saturday evening, Sept. 13, 2014, in his neighbors’ backyard at 1224 Undine St., according to charging papers.

Molly, a 13-month-old corgi, died on the lawn from severe hemorrhaging while her owners, Cary Chunyk and Loyce Andrews, cradled her in a blanket. Molly hadn’t been barking that night, Andrews said. It had been another neighbor’s dog up the hill.

The story spread far and wide via the press and social media. A Facebook page, “ Justice for Molly the Corgi,” gathered more than 14,000 “likes,” and corgi owners around the country shared updates on the case and posted articles from as far away as Australia.

Latham, a manager at a Bellingham branch of Chase Bank, was charged with animal cruelty in the first degree, brandishing a weapon, and criminal trespassing. He hired a private attorney, Adrian Madrone, of Lustick, Kaiman and Madrone, but in recent months he switched to a public defender, Richard Larson.

Amid the public backlash Latham lost his job at the bank and moved from Puget neighborhood, Larson said at a court hearing earlier this year. He had to surrender his dog and could not own any others. Chunyk, a bus driver, saw Latham out one day walking a dog, however, and Latham admitted he had bought the dog as a gift for his fiancée. He surrendered the dog and his bail was doubled to $40,000.

The deputy prosecutor, Shannon Connor, confirmed on Monday, May 4, that Latham died late last week. On social media, supporters of Molly said he had died after a massive stroke, but Connor wasn’t aware of the cause, and since it’s considered a natural death, the county medical examiner’s office won’t perform an autopsy.

Latham’s public defender did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call.

People who supported Molly’s family and the dog expressed “mixed emotions” on social media about Latham’s death, and pledged to continue to press for stronger animal cruelty laws.

“Molly wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, family pet to be wrongfully killed or abused and the laws MUST be changed,” read a Facebook post on the Justice for Molly page. “We will continue to fight for Molly, and all pets, and would ask that you keep the hate and anger focused where it needs to be. With the legislative process, not with Mr. Latham and his untimely passing.”

Update. Latham’s son, Steve, released a statement on behalf of the family Tuesday, May 5.

“I am and always have been truly sorry for Molly, and the loss her family has experienced. My father’s actions that night are not excusable, and to do so is not the purpose of this message.

“David Latham was not the heinous killer he is now seen for. People that knew him remember a fun loving, kind and thoughtful man. He worked very hard his entire life and took great care of those he loved. He was an excellent cook, had a great sense of humor, and was loved very much by his sons, grandsons and many others.

“In the last year and a half he has been struggling with some medical conditions and has not been himself. He described his mind as ‘foggy’ and was often confused. He was an animal lover his entire life and what he did that night was 100% out of character. He never understood why he acted out the way he did, and his remorse was unbearable. The man that did this was not the man that my family knew and loved.

“Again, I am so sorry for Molly’s family and their loss, and I ask that people keep in mind my family is grieving too.”

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