A Menifee man accused of killing a neighbor’s Chihuahua with a golf club pleaded not guilty this morning to felony animal cruelty.
Larry Edward Jaurequi, 58, who was released from jail on bond shortly after his Jan. 26 arrest, appeared briefly in a Riverside courtroom to enter his plea. He left quickly without commenting.
Barbara Hitchman, the owner of the dog, was in court with a small group of supporters. She declined to comment.
Hitchman has previously said that her 8-year-old Chihuahua, Lily, and her poodle mix, Benji, got loose Jan. 26 from her home in a 55-and-older gated community. She said that by the time she realized the dogs were gone and went looking for them, it was too late.
Hitchman said she arrived to find Jaurequi walking back to his house and Lily, fatally injured, in the street.
Riverside County sheriff’s officials said the dogs were running near Summitrose Drive and High Ridge Circle when Jaurequi came out of his garage, walked into the street carrying a golf club and struck the Chihuahua for no apparent reason.
Witnesses told deputies he hit the dog as if driving a golf ball off its tee, sending the animal flying through the air, sheriff’s officials said.
The dog died the next morning at an animal hospital.
Follow Sarah Burge on Twitter: @sarahkburge