A Lehighton man pleaded guilty in Carbon County court to a count of cruelty to animals admitting he beat to death a dog with a shovel.

Randy Earl Miller, 21, entered the plea before Judge Joseph J. Matika on Tuesday.

The case has a long history dating back to March 24, 2006, when state police at Lehighton arrested Miller for an incident in Weissport.

Miller was observed by several juveniles walking a pit bull/chow mix dog into nearby woods with a shovel in his hand. The juveniles got suspicious and followed Miller. They saw him hit the dog with the shovel several times. When the dog went down he then shot it with a pistol.

After killing the dog Miller threatened to kill the juveniles if they told anyone what they saw. The juveniles notified troopers.

Miller did not admit to shooting the dog but did admit hitting and killing it with the shovel.

He told troopers his girlfriend, Wendy Collen Kneller, now referred to as Wendy Miller, told him to kill the dog because it allegedly bit her young child.

The case has a long history in the court system as Miller and Kneller were charged. Defense attorneys for the two cited the state animal cruelty laws which they claimed allowed a dog owner to shoot the animal if the owner wanted to get rid of it.

Miller and Kneller had gone on trial in September 2006 and was found guilty by a jury, Miller was found guilty of one count each of cruelty of animals and terroristic threats. Kneller was found guilty of criminal conspiracy.

The law was tested up to the state Superior Court. Defense attorneys for the two appealed the verdict to the state court which sent it back to the county court for reconsideration. The court only took up the matter of the state cruelty to animal law.

Matika deferred sentencing in the case and ordered the adult probation office to prepare a presentence (PSI) report.

In a plea bargain, Miller is facing a prison term of six months minimum in the county jail at the time of sentencing. Matika told Miller that he was not a party to the plea agreement and reserved the right to impose any sentence the court felt was appropriate.