6-month sentence in stabbing death of parrot

EVERETT — An Everett man was sentenced to six months in jail Tuesday for the stabbing death of his former girlfriend’s parrot.

Richard J. Atkinson, 63, pleaded guilty last month in Snohomish County Superior Court to first-degree animal cruelty and second-degree domestic-violence malicious mischief. He’s been held at the Snohomish County Jail since the Aug. 19 attack.

Police alleged that Atkinson was alone at the former couple’s Everett home when he killed the bird with a serving fork and then trashed the house.

In court Tuesday, Atkinson’s defense attorney William Steffener said his client doesn’t remember what happened but believes he may have mixed anti-anxiety medication with whiskey and slipped into a blacked-out rage.

“He felt horrible,” Steffener said.

The sentence was recommended by both prosecutors and the defense.

Deputy Prosecutor Paul Stern asked that Atkinson face a consequence that would be both punitive and preventative.

“Obviously, these cases are difficult and painful and hard to understand how somebody can do what it is they’ve done,” he said.

Superior Court Judge George Appel also forbade Atkinson from owning or possessing animals for five years. The judge warned him that even walking someone else’s dog would land him back in court.

Atkinson also must undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and pay the woman for her parrot and destroyed belongings. He must appear in court regarding the evaluation before he can be released.

Appel called the crime “depraved” and “hideous and barbaric” but noted that Atkinson took responsibility for his actions. The judge said he hoped the time in jail and treatment orders would prevent Atkinson from ever hurting an animal again.

Atkinson declined to address the court.

His former girlfriend was in the courtroom Tuesday, surrounded by about a half-dozen family members and friends. In a letter to The Herald in September, the woman said she had the parrot, Bailey, for 18 years.

Before the August arrest, Atkinson had no felony history.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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