A Tooele man accused of setting a dog on fire, killing the animal in an effort to intimidate his ex-girlfriend and her family, is going to prison.
Michael Paul Busico, 41, pleaded guilty in May to arson, a second-degree felony, and torture of a companion animal, a third-degree felony, in exchange for two other charges being dismissed.
On Wednesday, a judge sentenced Busico to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for the arson conviction, and up to five years for the animal cruelty conviction. The judge also ordered the sentences to run consecutively, meaning Busico could serve up to 20 years in prison if he serves the full time.
The incident began on March 1, 2021, when Dixie, a 4-year-old red heeler, was taken from her yard. Her owners told investigators that a family member had recently broken up with Busico and took the dog to intimidate his ex and her family members, according to police.
Police say Busico took Dixie to the frontage road off I-80 near 9300 West, poured fuel on the dog and lit her on fire. Dixie suffered second- and third-degree burns over 30% of her body, according to court documents, and had to be euthanized due to the severity of her injuries.
On Tuesday, Busico issued a written apology to the family in court.
"I am very sorry, remorseful and ashamed of my actions. My actions were as a result of depression, and are not a reflection of the man I am," the letter states.
Busico goes on to say that he still can't believe he made such a "terrible decision," but also claimed, as he has before, that the family member had taken money from him.
"The things I did were done out of pure hurt, anger and confusion. I was wrong and stupid. I can't believe that I caused your pet death," he wrote.