Charges held for court in felony cat-killing case
WILKES-BARRE (WOLF) -- The first person to be charged in Luzerne County under new stricter animal cruelty laws is facing a felony.
A cat died in Pittston about a month after Libre's Law went into effect. We were in the courtroom for Max Stevey's preliminary hearing, where the charges were held for court.
SPCA officer Wayne Harvey testified that Stevey, 24, now of Lebanon County, admitted stabbing the cat under its jaw up to its brain, after it went out his apartment window.
Stevey reported he wasn't sure if it was dead, so he also put it in water because cats don't like water, Harvey said.
"The cat ran out of a window and fell off a roof," says Stevey's defense attorney Michael Butera.
"The cat belonged to his ex-girlfriend. They had an argument and he took revenge against the cat," says prosecutor Garry Taroli.
Witness Dawn Brown testified Stevey told her in Rite-Aid that he had to kill the cat because it was "peeing and pooping blood," so he drowned it.
A vet, Dawn Fiedorczyk, testifed the cat died from the head wound and not drowning, because its lungs floated at necropsy, meaning they had air inside.
"We saw it on an animal page that he was asking for help, and later that night, we found out that the cat had passed away, and somebody witnessed it being put in a dumpster,"says Brenda Buckler of Whiskers World Inc. pet rescue.
Butera said the cat had to be put out of its misery.
"It was basically the same thing they do at the SPCA or any other animal shelter to any animal that's suffering terribly," says Butera.
There were more than a dozen people in the audience, many of them women who volunteer to rescue animals, who were upset about the death of Ginger the cat.
They had held signs at an earlier court appearance demanding justice for Ginger, a picture on the Whiskers World Facebook page showed.
"I think it was barbaric and very cruel and I hope he pays the max penalty for what he's done to that poor cat,"says Paula Foux from Meshoppen Cat Rescue, who attended the hearing.
"Mr. Stevey certainly is an animal lover. He had no intent of doing any harm to the cat. He did what he thought was right under all the circumstances," says Butera.
Harvey said he checked the nearby Lithuanian Club security cameras a week after, but the footage was already gone. As for Libre's Law, both sides have different views.
"People that abuse animals go on to abuse children, abuse women," says Taroli.
"It's another case of the Pennsylvania legislature overreacting to pressure groups," says Butera. "To be convicted of a felony at this stage of his life would be a true tragedy."
Stevey had no comment for us, but we did find his Facebook page, where he wrote that "social media turned everything into a witch hunt" and he will "seek compensation for defamation."
Butera says Stevey didn't know about services like a 24-hour vet in Plains, which was mentioned during the hearing.
Officer Harvey says vets typically give animals an overdose of anesthesia to put them to sleep quietly.