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Monday, Apr 18, 2011County: Laramie
Defendant/Suspect: Vikki Rene Kittles
Accused animal hoarder Vicki R. Kittles was convicted Friday of animal cruelty.
In a late-night decision, a six-person jury found Kittles, 64, guilty of two counts of animal cruelty and one count of failure to provide proper care to an obviously ill animal.
Day 1 of Kittles' trial was plagued with several outbursts from Kittles and stern warnings from Laramie County Circuit Court Judge Roberta Coates. The antics continued through the day Friday as Kittles was reminded several times through the proceedings not to make outward personal comments for the jury to hear during the questioning of witnesses.
Kittles chose not to testify on her own behalf based on her belief that the court was unduly biased against her. She accused Coates of not allowing her to present evidence and mount a proper defense. Kittles said she did not want to be a "guinea pig" on the stand.
Earlier in the day, Coates allowed Kittles a short recess from the trial after she began crying and accused the animal shelter of "torturing" animals that had been confiscated years ago in previous court hearings. She contended that her reputation as an animal hoarder is false, adding that these allegations are all rumors associated with her name.
In her closing arguments, Kittles argued that her 35-foot trailer was not all that small for 18 cats. She said the animals suffered from chronic upper respiratory disease that stemmed from the incurable herpes virus, adding that the cats were no better off when they were returned to her custody in October 2011 than when they were confiscated in April 2011.
She contended that the conditions at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter were not better than the home she provided to the cats in her trailer, which was supported by the fact that several of the cats continued to show symptoms of upper respiratory disease when she immediately took them for an evaluation after she picked them up from the shelter.
Coates set several time limitations on Kittles' questioning. During a recess ordered to allow Kittles to organize her notes, Kittles made several comments about her hatred toward the judge and accused someone of breaking into her trailer and stealing evidence.
Assistant district attorney TJ Forwood countered Kittles' closing argument claims, saying that Kittles had added her own speculations onto the evidence presented.
He said of the 18 cats confiscated from Kittles trailer in October, nine were infected with upper respiratory disease during their first exam.
When the animals were examined by Kittles' vet, Dr. Brenda Unrein, only two continued to show definitive symptoms. He said Unrein never said the animals' health had worsened at the shelter, as Kittles had said in her closing.
Forwood said all of the state's witnesses testified that having an excessive number of cats living in close conditions formed a perfect storm for spreading infection.
"We have a trailer full of circumstances that make it the perfect breeding ground for disease," he said, adding that Kittles knew the animals were sick and stopped treating them.
Judge Coates set a hearing to discuss the bench trial set in a separate case against Kittles for 2:15 p.m. Monday. This case deals with several citations for failure to vaccinate her animals. The trial is set for Friday, March 16.
- wyomingnews.com - March 10, 2012
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