By Dave Russell
A Sylva man who pleaded guilty to shooting a cat in its owner’s front yard was sentenced last week on felony cruelty to animals charges.
Trevor Scott Broom, 22, of Fisher Creek Road, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, Sept. 23 to charges stemming from a Dec. 21 incident when he fired a .22 rifle from a truck and killed an 11-year-old cat named “Ryder.”
Broom was sentenced to eight to 19 months suspended for 24 months and placed on supervised probation. He was ordered to perform 72 hours community service, obtain a mental health evaluation and substance abuse assessment with treatment and 90 days electronic monitoring with a curfew. He must serve three days per month over the next four months in the Jackson County Detention Center. He is not allowed to have pets for the duration of the suspended sentence or to have contact with the victims. As a convicted felon, Broom is not allowed to own guns.
Ryder’s owner, Christina Daniels, was in her driveway on Platinum Drive in Tuckasegee when she heard the shot, she said.
“I saw Ryder running to our house while the truck sped up the road,” Daniels said. “The neighbor tried to stop the truck, but the truck ran our neighbor off the road.”
The truck came back by her house and Daniels and her boyfriend managed to stop it, she said.
They turned their cell phones toward the truck to get video and pictures as the driver and passenger cursed them, Daniels said.
A Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy responded and levied a misdemeanor charge. Broom’s charges were updated from a misdemeanor cruelty to animals charge to a felony charge following a March 2 grand jury indictment.
“My family’s pet was killed where my children play,” Daniels said in March after the indictment. “This cat was my children’s best friend. He was old and gentle and did not deserve to die like this.”
Daniels attended Broom’s court hearing last week.
“I was pleased,” she said of the verdict. “I think this is a good step forward as far as people being held accountable for animal cruelty in Jackson County.”
The verdict brought a measure of closure for her family, Daniels said.
“We’re finally able to put Ryder at rest and have peace in our hearts and be able to finally move forward,” she said. “The kids miss their pet, they miss their friend, and that is just something that will have to heal with time.”
The family has not adopted a new cat yet, Daniels said.
Anytime there is an animal death, there is a possibility of a felony charge, District Attorney Ashley Welch said.
“Individuals who abuse animals can expect to face vigorous prosecution,” she said. “We urge people who observe either neglect or intentional abuse to report what they’ve seen to authorities. People who intentionally harm animals or fail to attend to their basic needs should be held accountable.”
“I’m happy with it,” said Pat Thomas, president and founder of Advocate for Animals of WNC. “I’m just glad he got something other than a slap on the wrist and they are going to work towards getting mental health and substance abuse help for this person.”
She hopes the felony charges and conviction set a precedent, she said.
“I am hopeful that people will get more than a slap on the wrist for doing heinous things to animals,” Thomas said. “History and research have shown they will move on to harm humans eventually. I feel like justice was at least somewhat served here. It gives me faith in the process where I do not really have much faith in our judicial process in general, particularly when it comes to animals.”
Broom, a 2016 Smoky Mountain High School graduate, has prior arrests for assault on a female and resisting a public officer.