A 25-year-old Nevada man accused of beheading and dismembering several dogs pleaded no contest Thursday to seven felony counts of willfully torturing and killing the animals in a troubling case that sparked public outrage.

Jason Schiloh Brown, of Reno, changed his earlier not guilty plea during an appearance before Washoe District Court Judge Elliott Sattler.

Brown had been scheduled to go to trial on June 22. He's been held in the Washoe County jail on $70,000 bail since he was arrested last summer when detectives found a decapitated dog and four dog heads in a small refrigerator in a Reno motel room Brown had been renting.

He potentially faces up to 28 years in prison at his sentencing set for Oct. 1.

Brown's lawyer, John Oakes, told the Reno-Gazette-Journal on Thursday (http://tinyurl.com/ppcgl6l ) that sensational media coverage of the case forced Brown to be held in protective custody due to concerns about his safety.

Oakes declined further comment.

A half-dozen members of Nevada Voters for Animals demonstrated in front of the courthouse last year urging maximum punishment for Brown.

Brown has said he couldn't remember anything about the time period when the dogs were killed.

Authorities said they were called to the motel in a busy area across the street from a Reno shopping mall in July after a maid reported the grisly discovery.

Two of the heads matched the description of a pair of Chihuahuas that a Sun Valley woman told police she sold to Brown days earlier.

Officers also found two bloody kitchen knives, scissors and two dog collars with rabies tags registered to the woman, along with dog dishes, blankets and tennis balls she gave Brown to help make her pets happy.

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com