By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The untimely death of Jay the cat who suffered what prosecutors called cruel and terrible injuries at a north Centralia apartment complex this past spring drew two dozen spectators to a Chehalis courtroom today.
A Bellingham lawyer, on behalf of a Thurston County animal control officer, petitioned a judge in Lewis County District Court to allow for the issuance of a citizen criminal complaint.
Lewis County prosecutors have called the death deplorable, inhumane, horrific and without justification, but contend they had insufficient evidence for criminal charges.
Attorney Adam Karp strongly disagrees.
Karp in his 19-page filing, with additional declarations from numerous witnesses, laid out a variety of potential criminal charges which could be pursued.
One of them was in connection with the man Centralia police arrested the night of April 28, but then let go.
Centralia police said Kyle B. Burke, 24, took a knife to the pet at the 100 block of Virginia Drive. The following day, Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said the cat may have suffered its injury at the hands of a child, at one point was dropped from a second-floor balcony and that possibly Burke was putting it out of its misery.
A retired Thurston County deputy and his wife went to the apartment complex and retrieved the dead pet that Centralia police had left behind, and took it to Erika Johnson, a former law enforcement officer and current senior animal control officer for Joint Animal Services in Thurston County.
Johnson had a veterinarian conduct a necropsy.
“Her opinion, of reasonable medical certainty, is Jay was alive before that penetrating injury,” Karp told the judge today. “This was not euthanasia.”
Meagher argued to Lewis County District Court Judge R.W. Buzzard the veterinarian could not pinpoint which injury caused the cat’s death.
“The state submits what’s going on here is they don’t like our charging decision,” Meagher said.
It would put the office in an ethical bind of they were made to prosecute a case they didn’t have faith in, he said.
“Who killed the cat?” Meagher asked rhetorically. “Nobody can answer that, even their expert.
“That’s why the state can’t charge the fellow, his friend, or even the little girl.”
Meagher said the strongest part of their case was to submit the 11-year-old girl to a voluntary diversion process. Witnesses said she squeezed Jay until his body made a “popping” sound and subsequently struck him in the head with a three pound rock, according to court documents.
Judge Buzzard took the final two minutes of a half hour hearing to say he took numerous pieces of information into consideration and would not allow the petition to proceed.
Karp said afterward he was underwhelmed, upset and concerned about the way animals are treated in the county, noting “lackluster treatment” by two branches of the government.
He plans to appeal Judge Buzzard’s decision, once the written findings are filed.
He immediately filed in Lewis County Superior Court a petition to impanel a grand jury to look at the case. He said it will take two of the Superior Court judges to decide if it can go forward.
For background, read “Centralia police admit errors in cat cruelty investigation, taking a second look” from Wednesday May 18, 2016, here