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West Dundee woman who stabbed lizard gets roadkill
By Josh Stockinger | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/21/2008 3:48 PM

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A West Dundee woman convicted of stabbing two of her ex-husband's pet lizards was sentenced Thursday to 50 hours of picking up roadkill.

Kane County Judge Grant Wegner called the community service component of 38-year-old Sara Tinsley's sentence "appropriate, given the circumstances" of her crime, which proved fatal for one of the two bearded dragon reptiles, named Fred and Ethel.

Tinsley also must serve 18 months of probation, undergo an anger management evaluation and pay $979 in court costs, fines and restitution for medical bills.

The mother of two, who has remarried since the April 2, 2007, attack, was sentenced after apologizing in open court and vowing to never be violent toward animals again.

"I'm very, very sorry for my actions," Tinsley told the judge. "I've been around animals all my life and never had an incident with them."

Tinsley's former husband, Harry Tinsley, appeared in court wearing a T-shirt displaying an image of a lizard similar to the one that died. The West Chicago man was not completely satisfied with the judge's sentence.

"There was some justice done but I don't think it was enough for what she did," he said, his new wife standing at his side. "I think it should have went a little farther."

Sara Tinsley pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in May, acknowledging she threw Fred and Ethel against a wall and knifed the reptiles while arguing with her former husband over the phone. The attack killed Ethel; Fred recovered after surgery.

On Thursday, Tinsley's attorney, Todd Cohen, reiterated the claim that the stabbing was brought on by domestic violence at the hands of Tinsley's ex-husband, who was accused of choking the woman the day before she turned on the lizards.

"This was an isolated incident caused by the emotional and physical abuse of her ex-husband," Cohen said.

Harry Tinsley refuted that account: "She started it. I regret doing what I did, but that's no reason to stab and kill animals."

The case ignited widespread controversy among animal rights groups and spurred legal debates about what constitutes a "companion animal," other than cats, dogs and other common household pets.

Prosecutor Nemura Pencyla, who had requested probation, fines and counseling, asked the judge to consider setting some restrictions for Tinsley having contact with animals or sentencing her to community service at an animal-rescue organization.

Wegner instead ordered Tinsley to spend 50 hours collecting dead animals from township highways, saying working in a rescue shelter might be perceived as putting an offender "in a candy store" by some.

Cohen said Tinsley currently has sole custody of two children, ages 17 and 11, and recently received counseling related to her divorce and other problems. She also cares for two dogs, two cats, four rabbits and four fish.

"She's lived a law-abiding life," Cohen said. "This conduct is unlikely to occur again."