Case Snapshot
Case ID: 4627
Classification: Poisoning
Animal: cat
More cases in Pierce County, WA
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Animal was offleash or loose
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

County: Pierce

Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 3 files available

Defendant/Suspect: Donna Marie Clark

Case Updates: 4 update(s) available

On May 13, Pasado's Safe Haven was contacted by Joseph Ashbaugh, whose 3 cats (Kiki, Billy and Topper) had just been euthanized at the emergency vet clinic, after testing positive for ethylene glycol, the deadly chemical found in antifreeze. Ashbaugh says his cats started showing unusual symptoms on May 12. First one cat became disoriented, vomited and appeared to be in great pain. Then a second cat came down with the same symptoms.

The family's veterinarian told Ashbaugh the two cats tested positive for anti-freeze and would have to be put to sleep. On Friday the third cat became ill, so the family decided to euthanize that pet as well.

Ashbaugh first thought the poisoning may have been accidental, since his neighbor works on cars.

After remembering that his neighbor had begun hassling him about his cat being on his property about six months ago, Ashbaugh looked over the fence dividing the properties, he saw a large bowl filled with bright green fluid and fried chicken next to his neighbor's driveway, close to the property line. He immediately called the Sheriff, who reluctantly came out to the home. When the maninsisted the deputy look over the fence to look at the "evidence", the deputy told him he'd better not trespass on his neighbor's property or he'd get arrested. He left and didn't write up a report.

Ashbaugh then called the Humane Society in Tacoma and the people there told him that since his cat was "trespassing" on his neighbor's property, there was nothing he could do - and they said the neighbor had the right to do anything she wanted to his cat.

After that, Ashbaugh called Pasado's Safe Haven, where Co-founder and Humane Investigator Mark Steinway made sure he had photos of the bowl of antifreeze and several witnesses. Ashbaugh also said his neighbors had been approached about a week ago by this woman and she asked them what antifreeze would do to a cat. They told her that it would kill the cat.

Steinway contacted the Pierce County Sheriff, urging them to pursue the case as Felony, intentional animal cruelty. He asked for a search warrant to be issued to investigate the neighbor's property based upon evidence Steinway had obtained from Mr. Ashbaugh. A different, very responsive sheriff's deputy responded. A search warrant was issued for the home of Donna Clark, 3700 block of 230th Street E., Spanaway, WA. Police reportedly recovered the bowl with anti-freeze and chicken from Clark's property and arrested Clark on three counts of Felony First Degree Animal Cruelty. She was released on a $30,000 bond.

Pasado's Safe Haven paid more than $1,300 for animal autopsy reports on the cats and pushed the sheriff's office to investigate.

The Sheriff's department then went in on the evening of May 14 with a search warrant. The bowl of antifreeze was still at her house.

Clark, who works as a nurse, was arrested on three counts of Felony First Degree Animal Cruelty. She was released on a $30,000 bond. Animal Cruelty in the First Degree is a Class "C" felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Her arraignment hearing is scheduled for June 1.  Citizens interested in attending who wish to carpool can find more information on the Pasado's Safe Haven website


Case Updates

A Spanaway woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail Thursday for putting out a concoction of antifreeze and chicken that was eaten by her neighbor's cats.

Donna Clark, 42, pleaded guilty in Pierce County Superior Court to one count of poisoning animals, a gross misdemeanor.

Joseph Ashbaugh's cats Kiki, Billy and Topper were humanely killed to end their suffering last May 14 after they displayed symptoms of antifreeze poisoning.

Investigators contended Clark put out the mixture after complaining to Ashbaugh that his cats had been roaming in her yard.

Neighbors reported that before the incident, Clark had asked them if antifreeze would kill cats, court documents state.

Clark apologized to Ashbaugh and his family Thursday before being taken into custody to begin serving her sentence.

Prosecutors originally charged Clark a mother of two who works as a nurse with three counts of first-degree animal cruelty, a felony.

But deputy prosecutor Dennis Ashman said in court Thursday that he reduced the charges because he could not prove Clark meant to kill Ashbaugh's cats on that particular day in a way that would make them suffer.

"This is the problem with the case the 'I don't knows,'" Ashman said.

Defense attorney Karl Williams said his client regretted killing the animals and has been through a difficult time since her arrest.

Clark has had to move, received harassing phone calls and been reassigned at work as a result of the publicity surrounding the case, Williams said.

A group of animal rights advocates has attended all of Clark's court hearings and called for jail time in the case.

A handful attended Thursday's hearing, one carrying a martini glass filled with a bright green liquid. A piece of paper attached to the glass read, "Antifreeze for Donna."
Source: News-Tribune - April 7, 2006
Update posted on Apr 7, 2006 - 11:23AM 
The trial of Spanaway woman charged with killing her neighbor's cats has been postponed.
Deputy prosecutor Dennis Ashman said he's trying to negotiate a new plea agreement with Donna Marie Clark, 42, whose trial was scheduled to begin this week. Clark now is scheduled for trial Jan. 10.

Last week, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Gary Steiner refused to accept a misdemeanor plea agreement between Clark and prosecutors. He said Clark's case had prosecutorial merit and that she should go to trial on felony charges.

Clark, a mother of two who works at Western State Hospital, is charged with three felony counts of first-degree animal cruelty.

Prosecutors say that in May she set out antifreeze with chicken parts in it for her neighbor's three cats. The cats had to be euthanized after being poisoned by the mix.

However, Ashman said he would have trouble proving a felony against Clark and wanted to let her plead guilty to one misdemeanor with the same sentencing range of up to a year in jail.
Source: News-Tribune - November 18, 2005
Update posted on Nov 18, 2005 - 2:23PM 
Clark attempted to plead to a lessor charge in Pierce County Superior Court yesterday, however the judge refused to accept the plea. The case is scheduled for jury trial on Friday, Nov 11, 2005.
Update posted on Nov 9, 2005 - 9:02AM 
Dozens of demonstrators packed a Pierce County courtroom on June 1, demanding jail time for a woman accused of poisoning her neighbor's cats.

"It's one of the worst imaginable deaths," says Susan Michaels of Pasado's Safe Haven. "It's a prolonged death. It first attacks the central nervous system. They start losing balance. They fall. They froth at the mouth. Their eyesight goes. They're confused. They're scared. The owner had them euthanized because that was the kindest thing to do for them."

The demonstrators are calling for Clark's conviction on three felony counts of animal cruelty and the maximum sentence with jail time.

But Wednesday's court hearing was about bail. Clark's attorney Shane Silverthorne argued she should be free on her own recognizance, citing her ties to the community and job at Western State Hospital.

"Mrs. Clark has never offered a mean or disrespectful word to any other person. She's an excellent employee," Silverthorne told the judge. "She works with highly vulnerable people and they don't have problems or suspicions or the like."

The judge agreed to let Clark go without posting bail.

Clark's trial on animal cruelty charges is set for August.
Source: KOMO News - June 1, 2005
Update posted on Jun 2, 2005 - 10:39PM 

References

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