The trial began Monday for a man accused of breaking into the Augusta home of a seriously wounded soldier and shooting her service dog.
Joshua Patterson, 33, has pleaded not guilty to charges of burglary and aggravated cruelty to animals. Testimony continues this morning.
William Johnson testified Monday that his wife’s neck and back were broken in 2007 while she was deployed in Afghanistan. She needed repeated surgeries and is still in recovery. A brain injury has restricted her mobility and she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In 2009, the Army sent Kinga Kiss-Johnson to Fort Gordon for treatment of the brain injury. It was at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center while waiting to see her doctor one day that a service dog walked up to where she was sitting and lay down on her feet, she told the jury.
She had been scared of dogs in the past, but his contact was calming. The occupational therapist who was trailing the dog told Kiss-Johnson about service dogs. In the spring of 2010, Balto became her service dog.
Balto helps her physically and emotionally, Kiss-Johnson testified. The two are so connected that Balto is the first thing she thinks of in the morning and he is her last thought in the evening.
“If I have a bad day and can’t get out of bed he won’t leave me,” Kiss-Johnson testified.
But on May 7, 2012, her husband had to leave on a business trip and she and Balto were worn out from a two-week trip they had returned from, she testified. She left Balto at home while she went out for dog food.
She was gone less than an hour, but someone had broken into their Gardner Street home. It was the third time in 2012 they had been burglarized and her first thought was “not again.”
The alarm company called to say sheriff officers were on the way. But Kiss-Johnson saw the back door open and she had to check on Balto, she testified.
Her apprehension grew as she walked through the house calling to Balto, who didn’t respond as he always did, Kiss-Johnson testified. On the living room floor she spotted a shell casing. Balto was on the couch making a gurgling noise and bleeding. “He was trying to get up and come to me,” she testified.
Kiss-Johnson, who still needs assistance with walking, was able to lift Balto and put him in her truck.
Balto suffered a gunshot to the chest-neck area but has recovered. It was five or six months before he could work again, and he still cannot work for long stretches because he cannot wear a harness for extended periods.
But Balto was at her side Monday as Kiss-Johnson testified. He lay on her feet, probably, she said, because he knew she was nervous.