Va. Beach man pleads guilty to arson, leaving dog to die in fire

Luke Alvarado Hill. Image Credit: Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach man accused of shooting a dog and setting a detached garage on fire has pleaded guilty to charges of arson and animal cruelty.

“He’s moved on and has come to grips with things,” said James Broccoletti, the attorney for Luke Alvarado Hill.

Defense attorneys say part of that moving on process was pleading guilty. That’s exactly what Hill did on Wednesday.

“The question more was why it happened and what can be done to help him?” Broccoletti asked.

Hill shot his dog back on May 12 and then set his garage on fire off of Princess Anne Road. A necropsy found the dog had been shot twice, but was alive at the time of the fire. Vets say that it was most likely the flames and not the bullets that killed the dog.

Prosecutors say Hill told police that night that he believed someone was after him and his pet. He thought the FBI was out to kill him. Defense attorneys say he was suffering from depression, paranoia and despair at the time.

“His father had just died,” Broccoletti said. “His father was very close to him and had a significant impact on him. It started a downward spiral that culminated in these particular events.”

After Hill shot the dog he poured gasoline in the garage and set the fire. He only escaped after driving his truck though the back wall and crawling through a small hole.

“He was remorseful from the first day,” Broccoletti added. “The circumstances will come out at the sentencing.”

After his plea, a judge granted Hill bond so he could go see a psychologist. Hill faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, but his defense attorney believes the seven months he spent behind bars until Wednesday should suffice.

“It’s not as if he was laying in wait for someone else at someone else’s house or he did something to someone else’s animal,” Broccoletti said. “This was his house and his pet that he loved for 13-14 years. There were just a number of circumstances and we hope the court recognizes that.”

Hill is set to be sentenced in March.

Read the stipulation to the commonwealth’s evidence