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Prison for dog beater

By jim Published: December 29, 2009

By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer

Words like ''horrific'' and ''unfathomable'' were used to describe what burglars did to Paulette Hixenbaugh's helpless dog.

Hixenbaugh, of Akron, urged a Summit County judge Tuesday morning to give one of the burglars the maximum term, which could have been 25 years in prison.

Melvin Prince Jr., 18, who earlier pleaded guilty to seven felony charges and a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge, received a prison sentence of four years.

A trial for his half-brother, Lewis Napoleon Jr, 22, is scheduled for Feb. 18.

Few burglary cases have garnered as much media attention as the one last February inside Hixenbaugh's home on Morse Street.

The focus wasn't on the guns, computer or jewelry that was taken.

Rather it was what the burglars did to Suzi, Hixenbaugh's 5-pound Shih Tzu-Pekingese mix. The dog was thrown against a wall and severely beaten.

Suzi was euthanized shortly after the break-in.

Prince was 17 at the time of the crime, but a judge earlier this year referred his case to Summit County Common Pleas Court, where he was tried as an adult.

Hixenbaugh, 61, was accompanied to court by her husband, Donald. She asked Judge Judy Hunter to impose the maximum sentence.

''He's cold-hearted, ruthless and cruel to do that to a little animal,'' she told Hunter.

Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Peacock said the ''horrific nature and the toll it has taken on the victims in this case'' warranted a ''very harsh sentence.''

The ''total violation of their security is unfathomable at this point,'' he said. ''I just wonder if he has a conscience.''

Defense attorney Paul Grant told Hunter that Prince played a minor role in the burglary and that the dog's death unfairly heightened the attention to the case.

He said Prince served as a lookout for Napoleon and an unidentified accomplice named ''Ronnie.''

Grant said the three men happened upon the house when they noticed a truck for sale parked outside. When no one answered the door, the burglary was on.

They burglars ransacked the house and silenced Suzi's barking by beating her, prosecutors said.

Akron police detectives eventually found Hixenbaugh's truck and identified Prince and Napoleon as suspects.

Napoleon has pleaded not guilty.

Prince apologized to the Hixenbaughs and said he was remorseful. His father, Melvin Prince Sr., a local firefighter, agreed that his son regretted the incident and said the family was hoping for probation.

''I had no control over what happened,'' Prince Jr. said. ''I'm deeply remorseful.''

Peacock, who wanted more prison time for Prince, muttered words to himself when Hunter announced her sentence.

Paulette Hixenbaugh, however, said afterward that she was satisfied with the sentence and relieved that one stage of the court case is over.

''It has been a long, drawn-out affair,'' she said. ''I just wanted [Prince] punished for what he did to Suzi. Now we have to go to another trial for his brother.''

Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or
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