Thurston County man convicted for brutally killing a dog sentenced to four years in prison 


A Thurston County man convicted in April for killing someone’s dog and throwing it into the Nisqually River in October 2023 was sentenced Friday to 48 months, or four years, in prison.

A jury found Zachary Tighe Dickinson, 27, guilty April 17 of one count of first-degree animal cruelty, which included a firearm enhancement and an egregious lack of remorse aggravator, and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, according to the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office.

The verdict came at the end of a two-week trial in Thurston County Superior Court.

“It is the hope of the court … that your time in prison is one where you can continue to grow as a person and ultimately get beyond this and return to being a contributing member to the community and a contributing and supportive part of your family,” Judge Allyson Zipp said to Dickinson during his sentencing hearing on Friday, June 21.

To one of the dog’s teenage owners, who spoke Friday about the impact this case has had on her, Zipp said, “I hope that with this conclusion to this stage of the process, you’ll be able to move on as well and return to continuing to recover and grow in your life beyond the events of that day and not let that day define you, either.”

The incident itself occurred at about 6 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2023, at a multi-family residence on Conine Avenue Southeast in Olympia, according to the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office and charging documents filed in Thurston County Superior Court.

One of the dog’s owners, a teenager identified in court on Friday by only her first name, Yaqueline, reported that Dickenson had called her two dogs outside to feed them, but only one dog, a rottweiler named Rocky, went outside.

A few minutes later, Yaqueline heard Rocky “crying out and yelping in pain” and went to the back door to find Rocky “pawing at the door, bleeding all over his body.”

Dickinsin entered the house “holding a knife” with visible “blood on his pants and shoes.” Dickinson then yelled something about “knowing this was going to happen,” regarding Rocky eating meat from a deer he had recently shot and hung outside to dry, according to court documents.

Dickinson then began asking for a gun that was in the house. Yaqueline and Rocky’s other teenage owner, AJ, then fled, but heard “what sounded like a gunshot,” according to court documents.

In a statement about the impact the incident and the court case has had on her, Yaqueline said Friday, “One thing that affected me the most was how I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t go to school. I couldn’t focus. I had to be put in therapy for nightmares. The image of Rocky will never go away.”

Deputies with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the Conine Avenue Southeast address at about 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 16. They were initially told the incident was a weapons violation, but while en route, a dispatcher informed them that “the call may be a domestic violence call where the suspect shot the reporting party’s dog and killed it,” according to court documents.

Due to a 2019 conviction in Grays Harbor County Superior Court for a felony charge, third-degree rape of a child, Dickinson cannot legally own or possess firearms.

A deputy who responded to the Conine Avenue address the night of the incident reportedly found a bloody paw print leading toward the back porch and followed a trail of blood that led to the river behind the property. At the end of the trail, the deputy found Rocky’s body in the river, at the bottom of a steep embankment, according to court documents.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team used specialized equipment to retrieve Rocky’s body from the river and then transported his body to Animal Services for a necropsy, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The dog’s location at the bottom of the embankment and the results of a necropsy indicated that Rocky was alive when he was thrown into the river and managed to swim to shore before succumbing to his injuries, according to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Randy Trick. He suffered three wounds from a knife and a gunshot wound to the neck, the combination of which caused him to die “of shock from blood loss after suffering greatly,” according to the prosecutor’s office.

“This was a deliberate, premeditated, prolonged, and gory attack committed with a degree of brutality and disregard for life that raises considerable concerns about the  defendant’s future capacity and propensity for violence,” Trick said during Dickinson’s sentencing hearing on Friday, where he asked for a 70 month prison sentence.

The standard sentencing range, which takes into account the severity of the charges and the defendant’s criminal history, in Dickinson’s case was zero to 12 months for the animal cruelty charge and 26 to 34 months on the unlawful possession of a firearm charge, plus an 18-month firearm enhancement.

Due to the jury’s ruling that Dickinson was guilty of the egregious lack of remorse aggravator, the court was allowed to set Dickinson’s sentence above the standard sentencing range by having sentences for the two charges run consecutively instead of concurrently. In this case, the aggravator lifted the maximum allotted sentence from 52 months to 90 months.

The minimum sentence set by the standard sentencing range in Dickinson’s case was 44 months, which defense attorney Matthew Kellegrew requested Friday.

“Forty-four months is hard to ask for as a defense attorney, but it’s what’s provided by the law,” Kellegrew said Friday.

Kellegrew argued Friday that, while he and Dickinson respected the jury’s verdict, Dickinson had a right to maintain his innocence and his decision to utilize that right is “not indicative of a degree of remorse or lack thereof.”

When given the opportunity to speak to the court prior to sentencing, Dickinson said, “I respect what the jury came to but I can’t stand here and say I’m guilty when I’m not. I feel bad for this whole case. It’s pretty sad that children had to go through this experience, that Rocky’s not here no more … (but) I can’t show remorse for something I didn’t do.”

Dickinson has maintained his innocence throughout his case.

He was arrested Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2023, and posted $50,000 bail on Oct. 20 after charges were filed on Oct. 19, according to court documents and reporting by The Olympian.

Thurston County Jail records indicate Dickinson has been in custody without bail since he was convicted on April 17, 2024.

While the jury verdict allowed for an exceptional sentence, Zipp opted against setting one, instead sentencing Dickinson to a concurrent 12 months on the animal cruelty charge and 30 months on the firearm charge, plus the 18 months for the firearm enhancement.

Under state law, sentences on enhancements must run consecutively to the sentences set for other charges in the same case.

In addition to the jail sentence, Zipp granted the prosecution’s requests for no contact orders prohibiting Dickinson from having any contact with Yaqueline or AJ for the next 10 years.

Under state law, conviction on an animal cruelty charge prohibits Dickinson from owning, caring for or residing with any animal. He is also required to pay a $1,000 civil service fee, which will be directed toward prosecuting animal cruelty cases and caring for surrendered animals.

Zipp granted Dickinson’s request to find that mental health was a factor in the case so he can better access mental health services in prison.

“As prosecutors, it is our duty to seek justice, especially in cases involving the cruel and senseless infliction of suffering on any living being,” said Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim in a news release Friday afternoon. “This conviction sends a clear message that conduct involving such cruelty toward animals will not be tolerated in our community.”

In addition to the teamwork of Trick and fellow Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rudy Breteler, the prosecutor’s office relied heavily on the work of victim advocate Shayleah Turner, the prosecutor’s office said in a news release.

“The specialized work of  a victim advocate is especially important to give a voice to minors who have been affected by a criminal act and to help minimize the possible trauma of participating in a trial,” the news release read.

During the 2024 legislative session, the Washington state Legislature classified first-degree animal cruelty as a level 3 offense, meaning it can have an effect on the defendant’s criminal offender score. Previously, the crime had been an unranked offense in most circumstances,  meaning the standard sentence regardless of a defendant’s criminal history had to be a year in jail or less.

The Legislature’s change means that the offense, regardless of how the crime is committed, now carries a maximum standard range sentence of five years in prison, depending on a defendant’s number of  previous felony convictions, according to the prosecutor’s office.