Case Snapshot
Case ID: 10405
Classification: Burning - Fire or Fireworks, Theft
Animal: cat
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Drugs or alcohol involved
Animal was bound
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Thursday, Dec 21, 2006

County: Onondaga

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted

Defendants/Suspects:
» Dustin M. Gauger - Alleged
» Kyle D. Custer

Case Updates: 7 update(s) available

Two Elbridge men are facing felony animal cruelty charges after state police said they poured gasoline on a cat and set it on fire.

Dustin M. Gauger, 20, and Kyle D. Custer, 18, both of Lot 241 Champion Trailer Park, Elbridge, are charged with stealing a pet cat from a home in the village of Elbridge, bringing it back to the trailer park, tying it up and setting it on fire.

State police said the cat ran into a car cover and the cover caught fire, prompting neighbors to call 911.

The Elbridge Fire Department extinguished the car-cover fire and then discovered the cat, suffering from severe burns, police said. The cat died shortly afterward.

State police charged Gauger and Custer with aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony, and petty larceny, a misdemeanor. Custer was additionally charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Both men were arraigned in Camillus Town Court and sent to the Onondaga County Justice Center on $5,000 cash bail or $10,000 bond.

State police in Elbridge said additional charges are likely.


Case Updates

Thursday morning, Dustin Gauger decided to withdraw his guilty plea in Onondaga County court. Gauger was looking at a possible two year sentence, now, he may receive up to 7-years behind bars. Kyle Custer, an alleged accomplice in the case, was slapped with a two year sentence for committing similar crimes. Both men stand accused of stealing a family's cat, tying it up, dousing it with lighter fluid, then setting it on fire, killing the animal. Both are accused of also trying to have sex with two 14 year old girls.
Source: WTVH - April 12, 2007
Update posted on Apr 17, 2007 - 2:16PM 
In Onondaga County Court Monday, Kyle Custer pleaded guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old girl last year. He was sentenced to one to three years in jail.

While in court, Custer was also sentenced for his part in the killing of a neighborhood cat.

Judge Anthony Aloi called the killing a senseless act, and Aloi wants sentencing guidelines stiffened for criminals who harm animals.

He says the most time he can sentence Kyle Custer to, is 2 years in state prison, but he wishes he could sentence him longer.

"There is a link between someone who abuses animals and committing violence against humans," he said.

Judge Aloi told Kyle Custer violence against animals will not be tolerated.

Custer pleaded guilty to stealing a neighborhood cat last December, dousing it with gasoline, and then setting it on fire near his home in Elbridge.

The cat did not survive. During Monday's sentencing, Judge Aloi read a statement from the cat's owner.

"This single act, with complete disregard for life, has had a deep and lasting effect on my son, myself, our family, and friends."

Custer didn't say anything during sentencing, but his attorney says he did the right thing by staying quiet.

Robert Lis said, "I think his demeanor at this point was very good today because I didn't want him up there making a joke out of it. I didn't want him laughing about it. I didn't see him doing that."

The cat's owner was not in court, but said the family is mourning the loss of the cat because it was part of the family.

Last month, a second man, Dustin Gauger, also pleaded guilty in the cat killing case.

He'll be sentenced on Thursday. There is a bill that's been introduced in the state senate that would increase the sentence time for repeat offenders of animal cruelty crimes.
Source: WSYR - April 9, 2007
Update posted on Apr 10, 2007 - 2:42AM 
One of two Elbridge men charged with setting a cat on fire in December admitted his guilt on March 19 in Onondaga County Court.

Kyle D. Custer , 18, pleaded guilty before Judge Anthony Aloi to a felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals in connection with the Dec. 20 incident. He admitted to acting with co-defendant Dustin M. Gauger , 20, to tie up a cat, douse it with gas and then, set it on fire, killing the animal.

Aloi promised him the maximum penalty of two years in state prison. Custer is also supposed to plead guilty in a pending statutory rape case and receive a consecutive penalty of one to three years.
Source: Syracuse.Com - March 19, 2007
Update posted on Mar 22, 2007 - 3:28AM 
One of two Elbridge men accused in a statutory rape case and the unrelated killing of a local family's cat was in court Thursday to face probation violation allegations.

Kyle D. Custer, 18, was arraigned and ordered held in jail without bail.

Custer had been placed on probation last August in a burglary case in which he was granted youthful offender treatment.

Custer and Dustin M. Gauger, 20, were arrested last month and charged with animal cruelty, accused of stealing a local family's cat, tying it up, dousing it with gasoline and setting it on fire. The cat later died.

The two defendants then were charged with having illegal sexual encounters with 14-year-old girls.

Charges from those matters are pending. Custer is due in court Jan. 22.
Source: Syracuse.Com - Jan 5, 2007
Update posted on Jan 6, 2007 - 12:22AM 
Kyle Custer, 16, and Dustin Gauger, 20, pleaded not guilty in court Friday.

The men are accused of having sex with two 14-year-old girls. The girls went to police after they heard about the animal cruelty charges last week.

Gauger waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Custer has not decided if he will let the case go to a preliminary hearing or let it go right to a grand jury.

"We elected not to proceed on those in order not to bring our minor witnesses into the courtroom and through the media. Based on waivers of the preliminary hearing of the first set of charges they reserved the rights of the second charges meaning they knew they weren't going to go forward with the hearing today," said Cayuga County District Attorney Laura Fiorenza.

Because the men were arraigned on the cruelty charges, they will continue to be held on bail.

Their next court date has not been set.
Source: News 10 Now - Dec 30, 2006
Update posted on Jan 3, 2007 - 10:13PM 
The two men accused of killing a cat by dousing it with gasoline and lighting it on fire appeared in court on Friday. A judge waived 20 year-old Dustin Gauger and 18 year-old Kyle Custer's right to a preliminary hearing. The case was handed to a grand jury. Prosecutors say Gauger and Custer stole the cat from a home in the Village of Elbridge last week. They then took it to a trailer park, where they allegedly tied it up, and tortured it, it later died. Both Gauger, and Custer are charged with aggravated animal cruelty. They also face unrelated rape charges for allegedly having sex with minors.
Source: WTVH - Dec 29, 2006
Update posted on Jan 3, 2007 - 10:08PM 
The two people charged last week with setting a kitten ablaze now are facing felony rape counts involving two 14-year-old girls in unrelated incidents.

State police Investigator David Longo said the two girls came forward last week after their parents saw that Dustin M. Gauger, 20, and Kyle D. Custer, 16, both of Elbridge, had been charged in the cat torture case.

"They knew their daughters hung out with those guys and questioned (the girls)," Longo said.

"The girls felt it was time to come forward. The first girl came forward Thursday and the second one on Friday."

Longo said he didn't think force was involved, but the girls' ages led to the rape charges.

Custer, represented by assigned counsel Robert Lis, pleaded not guilty to the new charges when he was arraigned Tuesday before Elbridge Town Justice Patricia DeRue.

He is charged with second-degree rape and endangering the welfare of a child in addition to the aggravated animal cruelty

and petty larceny charges he and Gauger already were facing in the cat-burning incident.

Gauger and Custer were brought to the courtroom in manacles from the Onondaga County Justice Center jail, where they were being held in lieu of $5,000 bail in the cruelty case.

Gauger was not arraigned on the new charges of second-degree rape, second-degree criminal sexual act and endangering the welfare of a child because he had just been assigned counsel earlier Tuesday.

His lawyer will be Frank Scibilia, said Assistant District Attorney Laura Fiorenza.

DeRue, at Fiorenza's request, issued orders of protection for both alleged rape victims, prohibiting contact of any kind between the accused and the girls. She also set bail on the new charges at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.

The animal charges against Custer already have been waived to a county grand jury, Fiorenza said.

Longo, who investigated the cruelty case, said Gauger and Custer stole the cat, named Moose, from the Kelly family home on West Main Street, Elbridge, last week, took it back to Champion Trailer Park in Elbridge, where they live, tied it up, doused it with gasoline and set it on fire. The animal later died.

They will be back in Elbridge Town Court at 3 p.m. Friday.
Source: The Post-Standard - Dec 27, 2006
Update posted on Dec 27, 2006 - 10:17AM 

References

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