Instead, the veteran K-9 officer now stands accused of leaving one police dog in a roasting car to die and executing another.
On Tuesday, investigators announced that the remains of a third dog — unearthed in Peabody’s back yard — indicated the animal also had been shot, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The alleged case of animal cruelty is all the more bizarre because of the special protections police departments bestow on the expensive and highly trained animals.
In Georgia, for instance, it is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison to intentionally kill a K9 — a penalty stiffened just last year after a police dog was killed in the line of duty.
Few in Cherokee County could have imagined that the biggest threat to a beloved police dog was the man holding its leash.
The strange story dates to at least 2012, but only came to light last month.
On June 10, Peabody and his pawed partner, Inca, a four-year-old Belgian Malinois, came home from work about 4:15 p.m.
Peabody, a 16-year police veteran who had worked with K-9s for five years, rushed inside to deal with another dog, Cherokee County Marshal’s Office Maj. Jamie Gianfala told the Marietta Daily Journal.
Nearly three hours later, Peabody suddenly remembered he had left Inca in his squad car. When Peabody went outside to check on the dog, she was dead, Gianfala said.
Gianfala also said Peabody’s 2001 Ford Crown Victoria was not equipped for police dogs.
“There’s no kennel, there’s no alarms,” he added. “It’s basically just a Crown Vic police car.”
The temperature that afternoon was in the 90s, “and that was outside, so I’m sure the temperature in that police car was much higher,” added Chief Marshal Ron Hunton.
Hunton told the Daily Journal that Peabody was visibly distraught over the dog’s death, hyperventilating so badly that he had to be taken to a hospital and passed out at one point.
“He is very, very upset about the death of his dog,” Hunton said.
When authorities investigated Inca’s death, however, they quickly stumbled upon other suspicious incidents involving the K-9 officer and his partners.
When they asked Peabody about Dale, a yellow lab he adopted in 2012 after five years of working alongside the animal, Peabody initially said the retired dog died in a freak accident.
“Peabody initially claimed Dale’s death was accidental due to Dale choking on a toy,” the marshal’s office said in a statement, according to the Journal-Constitution. “However, the investigation yielded evidence that Dale was in fact shot and killed by Peabody at his Paulding County home.”
On June 20, investigators executing a search warrant on Peabody’s former home in Paulding County unearthed the remains of a dog they suspected was Dale.
Peabody was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and making a false statement to investigators.
His wife, Tyler Verlander, meanwhile, was cited for operating a dog boarding and training business without a Cherokee County occupation tax certificate, according to the Journal-Constitution. She was also charged with operating a boarding and training business inside a residential district and too close to a residential property. The charges are unrelated to the K-9 deaths.
On Tuesday, investigators announced yet another twist in the curious case.
A forensic veterinarian had determined that the dog remains did not, in fact, belong to Dale.
Instead, they belonged to a Belgian Malinois — possibly Inca’s grandmother.
The discovery brought to three the number of dogs Peabody is suspected of killing, although authorities say the development won’t affect charges facing the former school cop.
Dale’s body remains unaccounted for.