A Middletown man was found guilty Monday of felony animal cruelty for hanging and beating a cat to death last summer.
Andrew Tyler Chilton, 19, was arrested in August then indicted on the fifth-degree felony charge. On Monday, he was found guilty after a bench trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
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The feline, Tinker, belonged to his former fiance, Victoria Charles, who had broken up with Chilton and moved to Kentucky.
Charles, who is pregnant and has one child with Chilton, said when she moved to Kentucky last summer, she left Tinker and the mother cat with a family friend for safe keeping.
She later saw pictures on a Google account she shares with Chilton of the kitten she believes to be Tinker hanging, bloody and dead, Charles said during testimony.
“I just started crying,” the woman said during testimony Monday, noting she forwarded the pictures to her mother.
Corina Charles also testified Monday morning, telling the judge that when she received the photos she took them to police, but “they wouldn’t help me.” So she contacted the county dog warden’s office.
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During an interrogation tape, Chilton told Butler County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Turner and Green Detherage that he found a dead cat on the side of Charles Street and took a couple pictures of it.
“It’s not her cat,” Chilton told detectives.
After the detectives pointed out a cord around the cat’s neck to hang it, Chilton said he was just drunk and messing around with a dead cat he found.
But when the detectives pointed out the trauma to the cat’s face in one of the photos, Chilton at first said he had no explanation.
Later during the interrogation, Chilton said the cat was one of his grandmother’s outdoor cats that he killed.
After hanging the kitten, Chilton said it wasn’t dead so he “probably” stomped the head of the cat or “hit it with something.”
The body of the cat was never found, according to Deputy Dog Warden Jen Schwaller.
Both Corina and Victoria Charles said Tinker the cat was never found, but the mother cat was at the family friend’s house where they left it.
Defense attorney Gus Lazares moved for acquittal after the prosecution presented its case, arguing there was no evidence because the cat’s body was not recovered.
That motion was denied.
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The crime carries a sentence of up to 12 months in prison. Chilton was immediately taken into custody after the judge announced the verdict Monday afternoon. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 9.
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