MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — A Hartselle man was sentenced on Monday and given special conditions after he entered a blind guilty plea last year to killing his ex-girlfriend’s dog.

46-year-old James Jaron Whitley was arrested on April 13, 2021. He was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals.

When News 19 spoke with the ex-girlfriend, Jill Burgett, she said Whitley “confessed” to killing her dog, a three-year-old Jack Russell Terrier mix named Jax, by beating him with a wrench.

Burgett came home on April 12, 2021, and expected Jax to greet her like always, but she said he was nowhere to be found. What she found in her bedroom put her stomach in knots.

“All week I found blood evidence and I found a bloody rag in my garbage can and I knew something bad had happened,” she added.

Three and a half days later, she found Jax’s body on the side of a Hartselle road in what Burgett said was Whitley’s duffel bag, after he gave her instructions on where to find Jax.

Whitley (Marshall Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Burgett told News 19 she feels guilty because she knows Whitley’s temper runs hot and knows he didn’t like Jax.

“I had to call the police on him in January. He had hit me, I had bruises. Jax was my baby. He was like my kids I will never be able to forgive myself and I have to live with that,” Burgett explained.

Though the Arab Police Department did not confirm Whitley’s confession, they did say there was enough evidence to arrest him.

Whitley entered his blind guilty plea to aggravated cruelty to animals on August 2, 2022, according to court records. On March 6, he was sentenced to 120 months with the Department of Corrections, with credit for time served.

The sentence will be split, with 24 months to be served in custody, followed by 60 months of probation. Special conditions of Whitley’s sentence show he will have to complete an anger management training program and mental health evaluation.