NORFOLK -- Panicked and filled with dread, Laura Jahn grabbed Layla from her husband -- she was limp, heavy -- and knew her dog was dead.
Now the husband -- Richard Michael Schunke, a 25-year-old Navy sailor -- is accused of beating the 8-year-old purebred beagle to death. A grand jury indicted him last week on one count of felony animal torture.
He's scheduled to go to trial in late summer and faces a one- to five-year prison sentence if convicted. The charge was first reported by WAVY-TV.
In an interview, Jahn said she'd been texting Schunke throughout the afternoon of Dec. 10 while she was working as a leasing agent for a Virginia Beach property management company.
Schunke told her Layla wasn't obeying him, Jahn said. He was especially frustrated because she wouldn't go to the bathroom outside when he commanded her to.
Jahn, also 25, said she replied by telling her husband to leave the dog alone. She'd be home soon and would handle it.
Then, Jahn said, her husband sent another text saying Layla had an accident in the house. Schunke said he was done, that Jahn had to choose between him and the dog because he no longer felt welcome in his own house.
Jahn said she again tried to soothe Schunke.
Around 4 p.m., he texted again: Layla had bit him. He sent a picture of his hand with a single puncture mark on the web connecting his thumb and forefinger.
Jahn told him to go to the hospital. They'd figure out something.
Then a final series of texts: The dog wasn't moving. He was taking her to the vet.
"Did you hurt her" Jahn asks.
"No I didn't," Schunke replies.
Jahn said she video called Schunke and told him to show her Layla. She could see ping pong ball-sized bruises on the beagle's stomach.
"My mind was spinning," she recalled.
Jahn said she told Schunke to take the dog to a vet immediately, and she'd meet them there. She texted her boss that she had to leave. Hysterical, she called her sister and both her parents.
Jahn waited a few minutes to calm down, to make sure she was OK to drive. Then she went to a veterinarian near Indian River and Kempsville roads. She didn't see Schunke and Layla when she arrived, so she went inside to ask the vet staff if they were there. They weren't.
Then her husband pulled up in his Jeep Wrangler.
"I ran out of the vet like absolute mayhem. I ripped her from his arms," she said. "She was very heavy and floppy. I had to hold her head.
"It's horrible. It's traumatizing."
A vet told her Layla was dead.
Layla suffered "excessive trauma" and had multiple bruises on her underbelly, thorax and flanks, according to her medical records.
Schunke, who was given a bond so long as he promised to show up to future court hearings, did not respond to a voicemail and text left on his cell phone. His lawyer also could not be reached Monday afternoon.
It was not the first time Schunke got mad about Layla, Jahn said. About a month before Layla died, Jahn said, she taped a conversation with Schunke, a recording she shared with The Pilot. In it, a man can be heard yelling about carrying a dog outside and having to wait with it for 10 minutes before carrying it back inside.
"You want to know what, Laura, that was just the straw that broke the camel's back," the man yells.
Then he says he'll keep the dog crated during the day, even if she has to eat or go to the bathroom. Jahn tells him not to touch the dog.
"I won't touch her," the man replies. "Shes lucky she's under this roof."
In a text another day, Jahn said, Schunke complained Layla had bitten his cat multiple times.
Jahn and Schunke met in 2011 while going to college at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., Jahn said. They had a friends-with-benefits relationship until they started dating in November 2016. They got married April 17, 2017.
Two months later, the couple moved to Norfolk because Schunke had been stationed here.
Layla followed Jahn, just as she'd done when her human went to college and then moved to Florida to work at Walt Disney World. Jahn got Layla as a present on her 18th birthday.
Layla was fun, cuddly and playful, Jahn said. She liked to stand in a "T-Rex pose" to beg for food. She also liked to play with children, fetch and get her monthly BarkBox, a delivery of treats and toys. Jahn suspects her friends hung out with her just to spend time with her dog.
"I would start my day with her, and end my day with her," Jahn said. "She was my best friend."
Now she's gone.
"I feel like a part of me is missing every single day."
A day after Layla died, Jahn said, she called a lawyer to file for divorce. Within 48 hours, she moved back up to Connecticut to live with her mom.
Jahn said that since Layla's death, she's volunteered for the Sato Project, an organization that saves dogs from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. She said she recently arranged to have a shih tzu adopted by someone on the mainland.
"I just really wanted to help the dogs that were in trouble," Jahn said. "I love animals. They're so much better than people sometimes."
This article is written by Jonathan Edwards from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.