Gage, a Pit Bull and loving member of the Burke Family in Louisiana, was cruelly murdered by neighbor Ray Stanfill on March 12, 2008. Please read Britt Burke's story below.
Click on the link at the end of the story to sign the Care2 petition asking the district attorney to impose the maximum sentence. They need 7,000 signatures by May 13th!!
March 12, 2008 was a cool morning (45 degrees) as I drank my coffee on the way to work. Peaceful and calm, with what should have been a great day. The phone rang and my world exploded. My wife was babbling and screaming incoherently into the phone "Gage is dead". "Gage has been shot.
Shortly after I left for work, my wife had let our Yorkies and Gage out for a quick "potty" break. My wife was at the back of the house when she heard a loud noise come from the back yard. She immediately ran to the back door but Gage was not there. The Yorkies were standing at the door frantically trying to get inside. You could see the awful look of fear in their eyes. She opened the door and yelled for Gage, but for the first time in his life he did not obey. He could not...for he was dying. (Keep in mind, our backyard is over an acre-fenced in)
Where to start? Gage came into our life seven years ago. Newly married and having almost grown children from previous marriages we found the house was getting quite (despite our loving Yorkies) so we talked and decided that we wanted to add another dog to our family. We were deploying overseas and I work nights mostly and I wanted my wife to feel safe. So precious little Gage came into our lives. Gage was not just a "dog" or just a "pitbull" to us. He loved everyone; cats, puppies, bunnies and kids. He made friends easy. He would endure great pain from a small child "as long as he was the center of attention" he was happy.
Gage was about two months old when we moved to the Azore Islands in Portugal. We worked so hard at teaching him proper social skills. We made sure that he knew what "NO" meant and we always had him in large groups so that he would be used to being around people. A stranger was never a stranger as long as he knew we approved. He was taught what his boundaries were, where he could and could not go. The house in Portugal had a three foot high wall and Gage never left the yard unless he was told he could and then he was on a leash. He never showed any interest in trying to escape the safety of our backyard. By the time he was six months old I knew my family was safe while I was at the base.
Gage traveled the world with us. He loved everywhere he went. Gage was an adopted brother to my troops and companion to my friends when they were lonely. The cable guy even loved him. He was loved by everyone who knew him except one person, my neighbor.
Ray Stanfill, the neighbor who had a tree cut across my fence and did not fix it. Ray Stanfill, the neighbor who asked for permission to keep his boat on my property because he did not have access to the lake. Ray Stanfill, the neighbor who asked for permission to build a small fishing pier on my land which I had no problem letting him. It was later that I learned that Ray Stanfill, overheard by my brother in-law, taunted Gage on many occasions telling him (Gage) that he was going to shoot him if he did not stop barking.
Mr. Stanfill's story for the day he murdered Gage was that he had seen a snake on his property and went to get his shotgun to shoot it. Keep in mind it was 45 degrees and snakes are cold blooded. On the way to shoot the snake he say's that Gage jumped the fence into his yard and then jumped back into our yard. He said that he was "scared" that Gage was going to jump back into his yard so he shot him. "Sorry I had to shoot your dog." was all he said to us "after" he came back outside when he saw me home. Gage had never attempted to jump our fence. In the seven years Gage was on this earth he never bit anyone, never even tried.
Looking at the crime scene, Gage was dead on our side of the fence, shot through the neck, collar blown off and blood was everywhere. He did not die instantly, for my wife was holding him, trying to stop the bleeding as he breathed his last breath. He was shot at close quarters; the shotgun wadding did not separate from the shot before it entered Gage. Gage was burned from the blast. The fence was not hit from the blast. The only angle the wounds could have been made were for Gage to be standing, all four paws on the ground and Mr. Stanfill kneeling at the fence sticking the barrel of his shotgun through the fence and firing into my yard, into Gage. There were suspicious marks on the back side of his collar that led me to believe either before or after Mr. Stanfill shot him he tried to pull Gage over the fence to his yard to try to prove his story that Gage had jumped the fence. No one gets that close to an animal that they are "scared" of. They would shoot from a distance. The Sheriff's Office issued Mr. Stanfill a summons for Animal Cruelty and told him to get his boat and pier off my property.
The rest off the 12th was a blur spent building a coffin, digging a grave, and laying Gage to rest. We answered over one hundred phone calls as the word spread to former troops and friend in far off places. Everyone wanted to know what happened to the lovable goofball that was always the center of attention. There was a lot of anger and tears all over the world. A lot for a dog, especially a pitbull, but Gage was no ordinary dog to us. He did not have a mean bone in his body.
To add insult to injury, Mr. Stanfill now claims he owns the land and will not move the boat or pier from my property. The sheriff is unable to do anything about the property dispute because they cannot decide the lines without a court order. The legal deed shows none of his property comes close to the lake. If I remove the items from my property I could be at fault. He is going to tie this up in legal fees that I can not afford.
I have warned the neighbors on the other side of Mr. Stanfill to be careful. He has complained about their dogs as well. They said they have had numerous run-ins with him about their dogs.
I want him to pay for what he has done to Gage and my family. Don't take that the wrong way. I don't want money. We only want to see the right thing done. My kids can't sleep and my wife is a mess. My children want to move and I may have to get them counseling. What was a home is now a scary nightmare. If he will do this to an animal what would stop him from doing it to a human or child he does not like.
This morning I watched my wife let the little ones (Yorkies) out and saw her cry at Gage's grave. I stood there watching the scene from the backdoor not sure if they were safe to be out there. Worried about what might happen. No one should have to live this way. No one should have to die the way Gage did.
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