DeKalb County Solicitor General Sherry Boston announced that a guilty verdict was returned Dec. 19 in a theft case against James Jeffrey Berryhill of Decatur, who had been charged with theft of lost property for refusing to return a shih tzu named Chipper to his rightful owners.
Chipper, which belongs to the Saade family of Decatur, went missing in December 2010, and was later discovered to be living in Berryhill’s home across the street from the Saade family.
Berryhill, who renamed the dog Ralph, claimed that he had bought the dog from his housekeeper for $400 in June 2010. Despite the family's pleas, Berryhill refused to return Chipper. In January 2011, when he took the dog to be micro-chipped, groomed and receive his shots, Berryhill could not provide any paperwork that linked him to the dog prior to Jan. 29.
Judge Janis Gordon sentenced Berryhill to 12 months of probation; a $700 fine; reimbursement to the solicitor general’s office of $295 for the cost of boarding the dog; no contact with the Saade family and Chipper; and submission of a surrender letter so Berryhill can make no claim of ownership of Chipper.
"We thank the jury for their service and returning the pet to its family," Boston said in a statement. "This reunion is a special holiday blessing for this family and their children."
The case was tried by Assistant Solicitor Jocelyn Whitfield with assistance from Assistant Solicitor Timothy Owens and investigator Christopher Emerson.