Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17611
Classification: Burning - Fire or Fireworks
Animal: cat
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Judge(s): Kevin Galley

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011

County: Marshall

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Derek J. Weide

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Three more teenagers were in court Thursday afternoon on animal cruelty charges stemming from the recent fatal burning of an old cat in Marshall County.

Charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal were Derek J. Weide, 17, of rural Magnolia and two 16-year-old Lacon boys who were charged as juveniles. All were released to parental custody pending further court dates later this month.

Along with another Lacon 16-year-old charged last week, the three new defendants caused the gruesome death on Feb. 26 of a 17-year-old ailing cat whose owner had given him to one of the teens in expectation that he would be humanely put down by a gunshot, authorities allege.

Instead, Baxter the cat was taken from his rural Varna home to a rural Lacon site, where he was doused with gasoline and set on fire, police say.

The new charges resulted from an investigation that continued after the first teen was charged last week. Marshall County State's Attorney Paul Bauer said outside court that he does not expect anyone else to be charged for the burning.

Laura Napolitano of Varna, the grown daughter of the cat's owner, said she was "ecstatic" when informed of the new arrests. She said she regretted earlier public comments questioning the conduct of the investigation when only one person was initially charged.

"I understand now that (police) have a protocol they have to follow, and they really were doing their job," she said. "I'm very pleased and very happy, and I'm looking forward to seeing what (the defendants) all get."

Each teen has been charged with the same offense alleging broadly that he "intentionally caused the death of a companion animal" through the burning. The crime is a Class 4 felony punishable by penalties ranging from probation to three years of incarceration, though juveniles would be in a different type of facility.

Weide is a junior at Putnam County High School, he said during his court appearance. The other three attend Midland High School in rural Varna, though one said he was currently suspended.

Like the first teen last week, all three were released under strict conditions of home confinement except when in school or with a parent. They are not allowed to drive, work, or take part in school activities.

Henry attorney Ryan Anderson was initially appointed to represent the two minors, who were scheduled to return to court March 23. Ottawa lawyer John Fisher has been hired to defend Weide, who will be back in court March 29.

Authorities also have been investigating rumors that the event might have been photographed or videotaped. But no proof of that has turned up, Sheriff Rob Russell said Thursday.

Case Updates

One of four teenagers accused of burning an old cat to death in Marshall County last month pleaded guilty Wednesday in his second court appearance.

The 16-year-old Lacon boy admitted the allegations of aggravated cruelty to animals and was scheduled to be sentenced May 23 after a psychiatric evaluation.

"Poured fuel on the cat, lit it on fire, the cat died," the teen had told police in a brief written statement that was read in court.

The act followed the teen's offer to kill 17-year-old Baxter "humanely" on Feb. 26 with a bullet to the head at the request of an owner whose son was a friend of the youth, State's Attorney Paul Bauer said in court. The teen claimed he had done that for other people who wanted to save the money of going to a veterinarian, Bauer added as he summarized police reports.

"He promised it would be quick and painless," Bauer said.

The youth and a friend took Baxter to a farm where they met two other teens and used chainsaw fuel to ignite the fire, Bauer said. The cat escaped from a melting plastic carrier and ran into a shed, the prosecutor noted.

Two days later, the teen "was bragging about how he set the cat on fire and it lived for 10 minutes," Bauer said. The act also was reportedly captured in a cell phone video, Bauer added, but authorities have not found it

The teen gave clear yes and no answers to questions from Circuit Judge Kevin Galley during the hearing. But neither he nor his parents showed visible emotion.

Two other Lacon boys, both 16, have been charged with the same offense as juveniles, while Derek J. Weide, 17, of rural Magnolia has been charged as an adult. All three have pending court dates.

Under state law, a juvenile guilty of the offense must have a psychological or psychiatric evaluation, Galley said. Penalties could range from probation to as long as three years in a juvenile prison and also could include court-ordered treatment.

The outcome was welcome news to Laura Napolitano, the owner's adult daughter. She had retrieved Baxter's body from a brush pile at the site.

"I'm glad he's going to get a psychiatric evaluation," she said when contacted later. "And I'm very glad he pleaded guilty. That shows he knows that he did something wrong."
Source: - Mar 23, 2011
Update posted on Mar 24, 2011 - 9:13PM 


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