A Middletown man pleaded guilty Tuesday to 10 counts of cruelty to companion animals for killing cats and storing their bodies in a freezer.
Edmund Cunningham, 24, of Roosevelt Boulevard, was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty in August when Middletown police found multiple dead cats in his home’s freezer, according to police. A Butler County grand jury indicted Cunningham in October on 14 counts, after more animals were located in the freezer.
In exchange for the plea in Butler County Common Pleas Court, four felony charges were dismissed, according to prosecutors.
Judge Charles Pater sentenced Cunningham to three years community control and ordered him to obtain full time employment and not to have any contact with companion animals. Cunningham has been incarcerated in the county jail since August in lieu of $35,000 bond.
A Middletown humane officer visited Cunningham’s home Aug. 30 for a complaint that he had been harming cats and kittens. During a conversation with the officer, Cunningham gave consent to search his residence, and police found cats in a freezer in the home.
Cunningham admitted he killed eight of the cats and was arrested and booked into the Middletown City Jail, according to police.
“He killed them in different ways,” Reeve previously told this news organization. “He took in a stray. He was cleaning it up and it attacked him, so he said he punched and stabbed it in self defense.”
Another cat did not wake Cunningham up “gently” so he threw it against the wall, Reeve said.
Cunningham’s plea marks the fourth felony conviction in the county since animal cruelty laws changed in 2016.
The charge of cruelty to a companion animal had been a first-degree misdemeanor for years, with a maximum sentence of 180 days. Now it can be classified as a felony in certain cases — usually when there is a prior charge of abuse or extreme cruelty, according to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.
Last week, Kevin L. Sullivan entered a guilty plea to felony animal cruelty for setting a cat on fire in the summer of 2017 outside a Howard Avenue residence. He was sentenced to three years community control and was brought back to Butler County for the case after serving a jail sentence in a neighboring county for forgery.
Earlier this month, Andrew Chilton of Middletown was found guilty of felony animal cruelty for hanging and beating a kitten to death. He is being held in the Butler County Jail pending sentencing next month.
In November, Tina Jackson of Middletown pleaded guilty to three counts of felony animal cruelty after several dogs, including one that was decapitated, were found dead in frigid conditions in the backyard of her home. She was sentenced to 60 days in the Butler County Jail.
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