Judge finds evidence of guilt for kitten’s abuser

Published 11:30 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Little Heart," the kitten beaten to death in May by a 12-year-old boy, is shown here at a veterinarian's office after its initial treatment. The kitten succumbed to its injuries almost a week after the incident.

A juvenile court judge on Tuesday found enough evidence for a finding of guilt against a 12-year-old boy accused of beating a kitten to death in May.

The Hon. Robert S. Brewbaker Jr. determined there is enough evidence to find the boy guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty but will delay a final finding until a later time, prosecutor Susan Walton said.

Officials are not revealing the boy’s name because of his age.

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On May 28, Animal Control officers were called to the 900 block of Brook Avenue, where a group of children said they had been playing with a kitten when the older boy came up, grabbed the 7-week-old kitten, threw it against a wall and beat it with a stick.

The male kitten, dubbed “Little Heart” because of a blue heart drawn on its leg cast, succumbed to its injuries, which included a broken leg and skull, almost a week later.

“We were pleased with a conviction,” Walton said Tuesday afternoon. “I knew that was going to be a hurdle.”

The boy was initially charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty, which was upgraded to a felony charge after a necropsy determined the kitten’s injuries caused its death.

However, Walton said, the felony code section dealing with animal cruelty requires that the victimized animal be a “companion” animal. Little Heart was a stray, so the judge was only able to find evidence for misdemeanor animal cruelty.

Walton said the young defendant denied beating the kitten and blamed it on other children.

“He was just deny, deny, deny,” Walton said. “But the other children exclusively said he was the one.”

The witness lineup during the trial included a 5-year-old, an 8-year-old and two 9-year-olds, Walton said.

The public reaction to the kitten’s beating included outrage over the incident and an outpouring of support for Jamarea Mills, a 9-year-old who stood up to the attacker by knocking a knife out of his hand when he said he would cut the kitten. Several Facebook pages were formed in response to the attack, and a special meeting of the Suffolk Humane Society was held for public education on the topic of cruelty.

Walton said the judge ordered a background investigation in preparation for a final finding and sentencing. She said she anticipates some form of rehabilitation or counseling for the boy, who remains in the custody of his parents.

“To be that cruel, what concerns me is that you need to evaluate why that would happen and hopefully get him some help,” she said.

Walton also praised Animal Control’s investigation skills and the children who were willing to testify.

“We were glad that the other children cooperated,” she said. “It took a lot for them to stand up and say what happened.”