A 39-year-old Kelso man will spend more than three years in prison for his part in a scheme to kidnap an English bulldog and ransom it for drugs and money.
Jesse James Clark, who insists he only agreed to keep the dog for his friends, stared with slack-jawed disbelief Thursday as Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Michael Evans sent him to prison for 40 months. Clark’s mother wept so loudly that Evans threatened to find her in contempt of court.
The sentence follows last week’s two-day trial in which a jury found Clark guilty of first-degree extortion and second-degree possession of stolen property.
Jagger the bulldog was kidnapped in October 2011 from his Woodland yard. Before long, Jennifer Lynn Thomas, 40, began getting text messages threatening that her dog would be tortured and killed if she didn’t hand over her prescription medication and $1,000.
Jagger was later found dead near railroad tracks in Kelso. Part of his head was missing.
The dog was stolen by Ivey Rose Svaleson and her boyfriend, Johnny Lee Jordan, of Longview. Both admitted their involvement in the plot last year.
Thomas had been buying baby clothes, a stroller and other items for Svaleson, who was homeless and pregnant at the time. Authorities said Svaleson and Jordan snatched Jagger from Thomas’ yard when they stopped by to collect the stroller and other baby goods.
Clark kept Jagger at his Rose Valley home and was overheard saying he beat the dog, then got rid of it, prosecutors said. Authorities also said Clark lied to sheriff’s deputies when they asked him if he knew Jagger’s whereabouts.
On Thursday, Thomas berated Clark in court, saying he should have handed Jagger over when authorities showed up at his door. “If he would have been a man and said, ‘Yes, the dog is here,’ he could have been a hero right now instead of a defendant,” she said.
Thomas added: “He cut our dog’s head off!”
Clark was never charged with killing the dog because it was never clear whether Jagger was struck by a train or purposely killed. However, deputy prosecutor James Smith said it “seems improbable” that a train killed the dog.
“There’s a degree of cruelty here, a degree of depravity,” Smith said.
Clark, wearing green jail scrubs and orange sandals, sat with his hands shackled at the waist. For long, rambling minutes, he told the court of the troubles in his life and his problems with depression. His mother listened with her face bowed into her hand.
“The whole thing is a nightmare, your honor,” Clark said, beginning to sob. “I would not do these things. I would not do these things.”
The case has drawn wide attention in the press, including some international media.
Judge Evans said that when Clark is released from prison he will not be allowed to own pets unless corrections officials say otherwise.
Clark’s sentence was at the top of the standard sentencing range for his crimes. He also was convicted of bail jumping after he failed to show up for court hearings during his case.
Svaleson pleaded guilty last year to first-degree extortion and was sentenced to nine months in jail. Jordan also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison.