Nfld. & Labrador

Man convicted of animal cruelty arrested after failing to show up for court

A man convicted of a horrific case of animal cruelty is now in custody. John Corcoran failed to show up for court last week to be sentenced, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

WARNING: This story contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some

John Corcoran after being arresting for failing to show up to be sentenced for animal cruelty. (Glenn Payette/CBC )

A man convicted of a horrific case of animal cruelty is now in custody. 

John Corcoran, 33, failed to show up for court last week to be sentenced, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was picked up Thursday.

The details of the cruelty case are alarming.

Corcoran owned a young female pitbull named Diamond, and he allowed her to starve to death in 2015.

At a sentencing hearing in January, the province's chief veterinarian, Dr. Laura Rogers, cried on the stand as she described the state of the dog's body and how it would have suffered.

The emaciated body of Corcoran's pitbull, Diamond, was found in a house he used to live in. (Glenn Payette/CBC )

"This animal would have been very hungry and very thirsty for quite some time," Rogers said. "They get quite dizzy and weak, and eventually can't walk or lift their head. It's not very pleasant to think about.

"I don't know that I've ever seen an animal this emaciated before, to be honest."

Rogers told the court that emaciation is an end point, where the animal has no more reserves, fat, muscle or otherwise to call upon to sustain its life. She said it could have taken between one and three months to get to that state before it died.

The RNC issued an arrest warrant for Corcoran when he didn't show up for his sentencing. (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)

"It was almost like there was no muscle left," she said. "It was skin pulled over bone. Pitbulls have very prominent muscles around their head. They have a really strong bite. There was nothing left. Wasted. Total absence."

Rogers performed an animal autopsy on Diamond, called a necropsy.

"This dog's marrow was actually empty, hollow, completely hollow," she testified. "The animal will attempt to utilize all its tissue, the organs will start to shrink.

"In an Egyptian mummy, I'm sure they do have some fat left in there and some muscle. This dog had nothing."

Even the bone marrow was depleted as Diamond's body fought to sustain itself. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

With her voice dropping, Rogers told the court, "You know, it's not difficult to feed a dog. Buy some dog food. You just need to provide it once a day with something to eat. It's not that difficult." 

After listening to Dr. Rogers, Judge James Walsh said to Corcoran, "You tortured that dog. Torture by doing nothing. Do you understand that?"

Corcoran replied, "Yes, your honour."

"Mr. Corcoran, I can tell you I've been here over five years and I've seen some pretty horrific stuff, and this is ranking up there," Walsh said. "How you ever let it get to this is beyond me. Absolutely beyond me. It's inexplicable. Where was your head?"

Corcoran said, "I'm still trying to figure that out, your honour."

Corcoran had pleaded guilty to the cruelty charge and was looking for house arrest. Given that Corcoran had a prior conviction for animal abuse, and the ongoing neglect in this case, Crown prosecutor Robin Singleton suggested eight months in prison and 18 months probation.

Diamond's body was found inside a garbage bag that was in a suitcase. (Glenn Payette/CBC )

Corcoran was in court that day with his pregnant girlfriend, who was just three weeks from giving birth.

Walsh took that into account and said, "Part of me says I should remand you into custody today until I make up my mind on how long your sentence is going to be. I'm not going to do that. I probably should do that."

Walsh set the sentencing date for April 26, 2018, and said, "I'll give you my decision then Mr. Corcoran, but pack your toothbrush because I can tell you there will be some straight jail time. There will be some house arrest, and some probation."

Corcoran didn't show up last week for that court date and now he's facing additional charges for failing to attend court.

He's now slated to be sentenced for the cruelty charge on May 9 and has been remanded into custody.

His lawyer, Tim O'Brien, said that Corcoran would like to deal with sentencing on the new charges on that date as well.

"He could have been sentenced if he had shown up last week," Judge Walsh said.

About the Author

Glenn Payette

Videojournalist

A veteran journalist with more than 30 years' experience, Glenn Payette is a videojournalist with CBC News in St. John's.