Case Snapshot
Case ID: 14060
Classification: Burning - Fire or Fireworks
Animal: cat
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Animal was offleash or loose
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Thursday, Jul 10, 2008

County: New Castle

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged:
» Khalil Seals
» Devon Young-Harris

Case Updates: 4 update(s) available

Lisa Mills jumped up and couldn't believe what she saw on fire in a grassy area next to her home in Edgemore Gardens. Three boys who looked 11-14, she said, had set a cat on fire.

"They poured lighter fluid on the cat. It went under the tree and started flaming up," Mills said, pointing about 30-feet away from her home. The flame grew so big that it extended up the tree and onto utility wires, causing the wires to spark, she said.

"It didn't have a chance to live," she said as she shook her head.

Mills said she was also shocked to see some of her neighbors on her block, the unit block of south Cannon Drive, actually laugh as they watched the burning feline like it was live entertainment. By the time the Delaware Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrived, the cat was dead.

"It's not often that this happens," said Julie Hill, the cruelty investigator who picked up the dead kitten.

While it's rare to see an animal set on fire, Anne F. Cavanaugh, executive director of DSPCA, said intentional cases of cruelty are more common than one would think. The kitten, Cavanaugh said, will be examined by an in-house veterinarian to make an official cause of death. The cat will be used for evidence if police or The Fire Marshal's office needs it.

"You're sick to kill an animal," said Mills, 30, who said a short time before the cat was set ablaze a group of children set an old carpet behind her home on fire. Her neighbor warned her about the blaze and put it out.

"These kids do whatever they want to around here," Mills said.

Children, who were the neighborhood riding their bikes and playing on the cul-de-sac Thursday afternoon, said they heard it may have been a squirrel or a cat on fire. Yolanda Medina, 49, was home at the time of both fires, and also heard the gossip going around the neighborhood.

"At first they were saying there was a fire over there and that the woman put it out with buckets of water," Medina said, pointing to a neighbor's home. "Then, about 20-minutes later, there was another fire. They said it was a cat."

Medina said people rushed to see the burning cat near a tree, but she stayed close to her home.

"It smelled so bad I didn't even want to go over there." Children in the neighborhood always cause trouble, Medina said, and that is a part of the reason she is planning on leaving.

"It's sad anytime you start setting cats on fire," she shook her head. "It's unbelievable."

Alan Brown, Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal said there was no suspect in custody and that the fire marshal's office would charge the suspects with reckless burning, depending on whether the DSPCA wanted to press charges.


Case Updates

New Castle County police have arrested a teenager on charges of felony cruelty to animals.

Devon Young-Harris, 15, who resides in the unit block of S. Pennewell Drive in the Edgemoor Gardens community, was linked to setting a cat on fire and killing it in July of 2008.

Harris and a co-conspirator, Khalil Seals, 9, who was originally arrested, were among those reported to have been involved in the brutal killing of a feline.

In July, County officers responded to reports of a group of juveniles attempting to burn a cat, when police arrived they found charred remains and lighter fluid which was taken as evidence for further investigation which lead to the arrests.

Harris is being held at New Castle County police headquarters awaiting arraignment.
Source: CBS 3 - Dec 4, 2008
Update posted on Dec 4, 2008 - 8:19PM 
A nine year old Delaware boy is behind bars, accused in a savage case of animal abuse.

The boy, who lives along the unit block of Rodney Drive in Edgemoor, New Castle County, reportedly set a cat on fire to watch it die.

The official charge is "cruelty to an animal that causes death."

The youth, standing 4'5" tall and weighing just 60 pounds, has been sent to the county's juvenile detention center after failing to post $4,000 bail.
Source: ABC Local - July 28, 2008
Update posted on Jul 28, 2008 - 8:56PM 
Animal advocates hope a growing reward fund will tempt someone to reveal the identities of three young teens allegedly seen killing a kitten in Edgemoor Gardens by dousing it with lighter fluid and setting it ablaze.

The kitten's July 10 death remains under investigation by Delaware Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officials, who announced donations have increased the reward fund to $3,780.

"We are definitely making progress," Executive Director Anne Cavanaugh said.

The investigation also has the support of rescue and adoption groups such as Faithful Friends, a no-kill shelter and animal welfare agency conducting pet service outreach, which is spreading word of the reward and trying to rescue other homeless cats in the community.

The incident has renewed calls in the community for more activities for young people, more attention from elected officials and more help with persistent crime that proud, longtime residents say has driven out some residents.

The lack of youth activities was cited in the wake of the kitten's burning -- but advocates also were upset that some adult residents saw what happened and stood by laughing as the cat ran, on fire, and died beneath a tree.

Experts including Faithful Friends' executive director, Jane Pierantozzi, who went door to door in the community, say animal cruelty is a crime known to often be a repeat and escalating offense, which has been documented as a frequent early crime of convicted killers.

"People are outraged, and want someone to be held responsible," Cavanaugh said.

The reward fund jumped with contributions of $500 from Forgotten Cats and $300 from the Friends for Responsible Pet Care, she said, "the rest was sent to us or Faithful Friends."

While little is known of the homeless adolescent cat that was killed and findings from a necropsy are being withheld because of the ongoing investigation, Cavanaugh said, "As far as we know the cat did not live long after it was ignited.

"And I imagine being burned alive is extremely painful," she added.

The arson fire that killed the cat -- and scorched a tree and overhead utility wires, causing them to spark -- also is under investigation by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The Delaware SPCA investigates cruelty cases as part of its mission without state funding, Cavanaugh said.

Reward donations continue to be solicited this week, as are potential farm homes for homeless cats being relocated from the community for their safety. Pierantozzi asks farm owners willing to provide barn homes for the Edgemoor cats -- after they get veterinary care, inoculations and sterilization -- to call her at 427-8514, ext. 7.

Tax-deductible donations, in checks payable to the Delaware SPCA and marked "reward fund," are being accepted by mail or drop-off at the group's New Castle County shelter, 455 Stanton Christiana Road, Newark, DE 19713, and its Sussex County shelter, 22918 Du Pont Highway, Georgetown, DE 19947.

An SPCA hotline has been set up for tips at 998-2281, ext. 0, and Delaware Crime Stoppers is fielding tips at (800) TIP-3333 or online at http://dsp.delaware.gov/crimstop.htm.
Source: Delaware Online - July 28, 2008
Update posted on Jul 28, 2008 - 9:54AM 
Animal advocates are urging Edgemoor Gardens residents to keep pets indoors until authorities catch those who burned a kitten to death. The warning was spread Sunday by advocates in door-to-door outreach, which also alerted residents that trapping will start tonight to protect the lives of other unclaimed cats in the wake of the July 10 cat killing.

"There are many, many homeless cats here," advocate Jane Pierantozzi of Faithful Friends said Sunday night after she and others from the nonprofit animal welfare agency walked the neighborhood spreading word of a reward and tip line in the kitten cruelty case, which is still under investigation.

Working with the Delaware SPCA, Faithful Friends plans to remove kittens and cats that have no owners, give them veterinary care, sterilize and inoculate them, then find them rural homes.

"We need some farm owners with big hearts willing to give them homes," Pierantozzi said.

Edgemoor Gardens residents fear more animals, and people, will be hurt because "there's nothing for kids to do here, no community center, nothing," she said. "Some said they are going to move because of the kitten-burning."

The amount of the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible will depend on donations, but the Delaware SPCA started the fund with $500, Executive Director Anne F. Cavanaugh said.

The neighborhood was canvassed after the crime by New Castle County police, investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal and officers from the Delaware SPCA and Kent County SPCA -- but authorities will not say what, if anything, they learned.

Resident Lisa Mills has said she saw three boys, apparently younger teens, pour lighter fluid on the kitten and set it on fire. She said the kitten died under a tree about 10 yards from her home -- with flames reaching utility wires that started sparking -- as some neighbors watched and laughed.

"This is a felony offense," Cavanaugh said, citing the exact part of Delaware Code (Title 11, Chapter 5, Subchapter 7, Subsection 1325) on cruelty to animals. The law says conviction is punishable by a $5,000 fine and 15-year ban on owning animals.

Neglect is the most common kind of cruelty, she said, but burnings are relatively rare. A necropsy was done on the remains of the adolescent cat, Cavanaugh said, but findings will not be released while the investigation continues.

Animal lover Sandie Carroll of the Milltown area said she couldn't wait to give to a reward fund. As soon as she learned of the cat killing, she e-mailed rescue groups to urge them to collect contributions, even before the reward fund was set up.

Her message to the kids who saw the killing and know who did it is simple.

"Next time, it could be your pet," she said. "Do the right thing."

If that type of appeal doesn't help investigators uncover the kitten-killers' identities, Carroll and others say, the reward should.

"I really do believe the money is what's going to get these kids arrested and convicted, I really do," said Carroll, who trains dogs and works for Holman Moving Systems near New Castle. "If nothing else works, money does."

The fund and anonymous tip line were set up by the Delaware SPCA, which, at its own cost, investigates cruelty cases in New Castle and Sussex counties, where it has shelters. "That's part of our mission, cruelty prevention and cruelty investigation," Cavanaugh said.

Reward donations also are being collected by Faithful Friends, which planned its outreach after the kitten's death, partly to offer its free and low-cost pet services to residents.

Pierantozzi said it is important to urge Edgemoor Gardens residents to keep pets indoors until the cat-killers are caught because such crimes nearly always are repeat offenses. And experts say such cruelty escalates, with tragic results.

"Nationally, research shows that often serial killers started out by harming animals," she said. "Those working in the public safety and animal welfare fields know this."

Pierantozzi said she knows people who saw what happened may fear retaliation if they identify those involved. "I think most people realize that someone who would do something like that, such cruelty to an animal, are capable of doing harm to people," she said.

"This person who did this is an individual who needs to get help and will harm other animals, if not people, if they haven't already," she added.

Keeping pets indoors also will make it easier for advocates to identify homeless cats in the neighborhood, Pierantozzi said.

Cats with collars will not be picked up, but all cats outdoors will be checked for microchip identification. Any with owners will be returned, she said.

Sunday's outreach also told residents of Faithful Friends' free services for pit bulls and mixes, such as sterilization, dog training and a free pet food bank.

In a second phase, Faithful Friends plans to trap feral or unsocialized cats, sterilize and inoculate them, then free them where they were found.

"We will be seeking people in the community who are already feeding or would be willing to feed the ferals that are released," Pierantozzi said.

Carroll, not a rescue group member, said she hopes the outreach and efforts to protect other cats will help encourage residents who saw the kitten's killing to break their silence.

As tragic as the kitten's fate was, she said, "it's even sadder that the people up there are protecting these kids who did this."
Source: Delaware Online - July 21, 2008
Update posted on Jul 21, 2008 - 2:07PM 

References

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