Madison County is in Northwest Arkansas and encompasses approximately 837 square miles. The last census from 2010 census indicates a population of 15,717. The county seat is Huntsville, nicknamed the “Crossroads of the Ozarks“. Huntsville has a police department and coverage is also provided by the Madison County Sheriff’s Department (MCSO). The MSCO acquired K9 Lina in either 2014 or 2015. As I’ve discovered since I started writing about K9 deaths, media reports often give conflicting information. I’ve also learned that Arkansas does not readily respond to requests submitted under the FOIA. What I do know is that through community donations , the MSCO was able to purchase a female Belgian Malinois from K9 Working Dogs International, LLC.located in Longford, Kansas. The website says that Police Dog Pricing ranges from $4,500.00 to $15,500.00 which is most likely based on how advanced the dog’s training is at time of purchase. I don’t know how much training K9 Lina had prior to joining Madison County, only that Deputy Cornelison trained to be her handler at K9 Working Dogs for three weeks. By by the time she hit the road with her handler, Deputy Jonathon Cornelison, K9 Lina was trained to track and detect narcotics. She also lived at his residence with his family and a family dog where she was housed in an outside kennel behind a barn.
What I DO know is that after being a K9 Officer for Madison County for one year, K9 Lina died in Deputy Cornelison’s patrol vehicle, a Ford Crown Victoria, on September 9, 2016.
Again, more mainstream media discrepancies as some report K9 Lina remained inside the vehicle when Cornelison arrived home from work at 6 am until the discovery of her body at 2:45 – 3 pm. Others reported that Cornelison took Lina out of the vehicle and kennelled her until he was called out to assist with an accident at which point he removed her from her kennel and to the wreck with him. So K9 Lina was either trapped inside a hot car for approximately (8) hours or (6).
This is a stock photo of a Ford Crown Victoria ~ not one from MCSO or any agency involved in this case.
He parked the patrol car in his driveway at approximately 9 am after which he performed a variety of tasks such as driving in his truck to help a friend fix a lawnmower, pay his water bill, talk on the phone with a family member and other errands. It wasn’t until approximately 2:45 – 3 pm after greeting his other dog that he realized K9 Lina was quiet in the kennel. That’s when Deputy Cornelison discovered K9 Lina dead inside the patrol vehicle, one that was NOT equipped with a heat sensor. The outside temperature that day was 91 degrees which means that the interior temperature would have reached 109 degrees within 10 minutes.
According to Sheriff Phillip Morgan, Deputy Cornelian was in a “state of shock” upon finding K9 Lina’s lifeless body. Sheriff Morgan also told the media that his deputies had been working 50 hour weeks due to understaffing and both overworked and sleep deprived. Deputy Cornelian was placed on paid leave while neighboring Washington County conducted an investigation.
I’ve read Deputy Jonathan Cornelison’s timeline and as a nurse who has worked more than her share of long 12 -18 shifts with little sleep in between and a single parent of (3) children, I can understand part of it. Here however is where any similarities end:
“Woke up at 6 a.m. Friday to take his kids to daycare, then responded to a wreck, with Lina in the back seat. Drove straight home, and went back inside at about 9 a.m.
At 9:50 a.m., he got a call to help his friend with a broken lawn mower. Ran errands until 1:40 p.m. and then met a Huntsville officer to review a DWI case. Returned home at about 2:45 p.m. and realized Lina was not in her kennel. Found her deceased in the back of his car.” Source: KHBS *Note It was 90 F the day of K9 Lina’s death
I don’t know where Deputy Cornelian originally hails from but I do know that he has lived in Arkansas for at least (9) years as he’s been employed by the Madison County Sheriff’s Dept. since 2007. That alone tells me he is more than familiar with the hot temperatures in a community whose motto is “Crossroads of the Ozarks”. The median temperature for early September in Huntsville is 80 – 88 F. Anyone should know that is too hot to allow a living animal or human to stay inside a car for more than a very brief time. But a LEO, who is trained to identify dangerous situations (hot cars being one of them) and to still leave his partner inside one is abhorrent. When he returned from the wreck, “with Lina in the back seat. Drove straight home, and went back inside at about 9 a.m.” He should have removed her from the vehicle the same time he removed himself. I do not buy into the overworked, tired, lack of sleep, skeleton crew excuses being offered by both the deputy and Sheriff Morgan; they are merely words being used to justify egregious behavior by a negligent handler. Deputy Cornelian knew it was hot out, as a LEO he inherently knew that hot cars are death traps, yet he still kept K9 Lina inside a virtual oven while “At 9:50 a.m., he got a call to help his friend with a broken lawn mower. Ran errands until 1:40 p.m. and then met a Huntsville officer to review a DWI case. Returned home at about 2:45 p.m. and realized Lina was not in her kennel.” Source: KHBS
None of his actions during the time frame of nearly (6) hours were the those of a man so irrational from overwork and lack of sleep that his behavior can be considered innocent and K9 Lina’s death merely an “accident” when in reality, it was a death sentence for her. This is blatant animal abuse ~ by cop. Which begs the question; how can we as a society trust an officer who is sworn to protect and serve us when he FAILS to protect the life of his own K9 partner?
On September 23, Matt Durrett, 4th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney of Washington County, announced that there was insufficient evidence to support an animal cruelty charge therefore Deputy Cornelian would not be charged. I do not concur with Prosecutor Durrett’s decision because criminal charges must be brought against the handler in this case. Otherwise, the negligent homicide of police dogs by human police officers will continue. My only solace is the knowledge and inherent belief that 90% of our law enforcement canine handlers are above reproach. Many would take a bullet for their partner. Once Prosecutor Durrett’s announced that no charges would be forthoming, Sheriff Morgan brought final disciplinary action against the deputy on September 26:
Deputy Cornelison will:
1. Be suspended without pay for 60 days.
2. Be removed from the K9 program.
3. Be decertified as a K9 Handler.
4. A letter of reprimand will be placed in his file.
A K9 Officer is a universal dog that can track, guard, catch and protect. A K9 Officer serves his duty just like any human officer. His handler knows him as a”Partner,” not just an animal.
It is disheartening to know that the state of Arkansas takes hot car deaths so lightly for it was just in August 2016 that a Hot Springs judge was found innocent in the July 2015 death of his 17 month old son whom he forgot in a hot car for (5) hours .
The courtroom broke out in loud cheers as the verdict was read aloud by Special Judge John Langston. Naramore’s wife, Ashley, ran over to embrace her husband shortly after.
A sad indictment against the values and moral compass of one of America’s southern states.
I’ll leave you with this thought; think about being trapped in a hot car and fighting for every breath you could take until you just couldn’t breathe anymore and took your last one. Very heart wrenching and inexcusable!
Next ~ Part 2: The aftermath of K9 Lina’s death