Woman pleads not guilty in starving death of Kent puppy

Zakeea Sykes with her appointed attorney Pam Studeman

Zakeea Sykes with her appointed attorney Pam Studeman

A 20-year-old Seattle woman pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of first-degree animal cruelty in connection with a puppy that starved to death last year at a Kent apartment the woman formerly rented.

Zakeea Dianne Sykes entered her plea at King County Superior Court at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. Sykes was booked on the charge and released on Wednesday within an hour after her arraignment. She is not being held in jail and did not have to post any bail.

Sykes is accused of starving Princess, a 7-month-old female pit bull, to death between April 1 and July 10 of 2008, according to charging papers filed Jan. 15 by King County prosecutors.

King County Animal Care and Control officers responded to a July 10 call about a dead dog on a patio of an apartment in the 1200 block of West Smith Street.

When they arrived at the apartments, officers found a decomposed carcass of a dog inside a dumpster outside of the apartment.

A veterinarian conducted a necropsy at the county animal shelter in Kent and concluded the dog died of starvation. The vet said the dog’s death was “protracted and agonizing.”

Sykes and her boyfriend leased the Kent apartment last February. They adopted Princess, a 3-month-old pit bull puppy, last March from the Kent shelter.

Sykes told an animal-control officer that in late April or early May her boyfriend moved out and she agreed to watch the dog. Sykes said she spent less and less time at the apartment after her boyfriend left and, “just forgot that Princess was there.”

Sykes said she remembered the puppy after she received a call from the apartment management asking about what she had left on the patio. She arranged for her father and cousins to dispose of the dog and clean out the apartment before she was evicted.

The ex-boyfriend of Sykes told animal control investigators that he moved out of the apartment in April. He said Sykes had agreed to care for the puppy. He left the state in May for family matters in Missouri.

Investigators said Sykes assumed all duties of care for the dog after the boyfriend moved out. The dog died because Sykes failed to provide adequate food and water, according to court papers. Sykes now lives in Seattle.

Sykes is slated to return to court for a Feb. 11 hearing when a trial date could be set. Attorneys also could ask for the hearing to be delayed.

If convicted of first-degree animal cruelty, Sykes could face up to one year in jail.

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