North Carolina State Trooper Who Illegally Trapped and Shot His Next-Door Neighbor's Cat, Rowdy, Is Now Crying for His Job Back
"He was really very sweet. He was never aggressive, even at the vet."
-- Andrea Evans
America is chock-full of criminals and some of the very worst of them wear badges and carry guns. Former North Carolina state trooper Shawn C. Houston of 2851 Icard Ridge Road in Granite Falls, two-hundred-fifty-two kilometers west of Raleigh, is one such latet anguis in herba.
Last October he illegally trapped and shot next-door neighbor Andrea Evans's five-month-old orange and white kitten, Rowdy, allegedly because he had been climbing on his vehicles. (See photo above of Houston.)
As soon as Evans found out what Houston had done she reported him to the Alexander County Sheriff's Department which, predictably, refused to take any action against a fellow member of the law enforcement community. Since Granite Falls is located in Caldwell County, it is unclear why she did not contact the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office unless she had done so previously and found it equally unresponsive.
Although the odds were stacked against her, she did not throw in the towel. Instead she went and contacted a magistrate who issued a criminal summons against Houston charging him with one count of misdemeanor cruelty to an animal and one count of misdemeanor injury to real property.
In this instance the so-called real property was Rowdy whom the magistrate determined to be worth less than $200. That in itself was an insult in that Evans had given Rowdy to her son as a birthday present and she most definitely considered him to be an intimate member her family. Moreover, it is doubtful that any court official would have had the chutzpah to place such a low monetary value on a dead son or daughter.
Evans testified against Houston at his trial in December before Judge B. Carlton Terry Jr. of the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court, Part B, in Lexington but it was a total waste of time because the fix already was in place just as it had been with the Alexander County Sheriff's Department. It therefore did not come as any surprise when Terry granted Houston's request for a prayer for judgment continued (PJC).
Unique to courts in the Carolinas, a PJC is a plea by a defendant whereby he neither admits guilt nor innocence and in that sense it is similar to a plea of nolo contendere. Judges granting such decrees may impose conditions, such as requiring that a defendant remain law-abiding for a certain period of time, but there is nothing in the record to indicate that Terry imposed any such restrictions on Houston.
Basically, a PJC is legal double-talk for an outright acquittal and the only thing that the trip to court cost Houston was $125 in court costs. There can be little doubt that Terry, in his great love for the police, would have stuck Evans with that bill if it were not for the fact that he is up for reelection this fall. That, by the way, is something that cat-lovers in his district should remember when they go to the polls.
On January 22nd the Highway Patrol fired the thirty-nine-year-old Houston who had worked for the department for about three years. On May 10th, he filed an appeal claiming that he was unjustly terminated and his case is expected to be heard next month.
Both at trial and in court documents filed in support of his appeal, Houston has concocted various tall tales in order to justify his murder of Rowdy. He first of all claims that he mistook him for a dangerous stray that possibly had rabies and therefore posed an imminent threat to his three young sons. If he truly felt that way it is odd that he willingly allowed them to play with Rowdy.
Evans also vociferously disputes Houston's claim that he did not recognize Rowdy as being her cat. "We played with him out in the yard every day," she told Raleigh's News and Observer on May 29th. (See "Trooper Kills a Kitten and Loses His Job.") "I don't know how he could have missed it."
Houston also ludicrously maintains that the four-pound kitten that he illegally trapped with ham magically transformed itself into a ferocious hissing and growling beast that bit him. That is another claim that Evans contests.
"He was really very sweet," she told the News and Observer. "He was never aggressive, even at the vet." (See photo above of Rowdy.)
Even if Rowdy did bite him, that was not a valid excuse for shooting him. Rowdy obviously was terrified of both the trap and Houston and instinctively knew, as all cats know under such circumstances, that his assailant was going to kill him.
The petit fait that Houston has not stated what he planned on doing with Rowdy after he trapped him is a strong indication that he intended to kill him from the outset. Once he had him in the cage it would have been a simple matter for him to have returned him to either Evans or to a local humane group.
Houston's cold-blooded murder of Rowdy is identical to what George A. Seymour Jr. of the Bentivar subdivision outside of Charlottesville did to Klaus and Vanessa Wintersteiger's three-year-old black cat, Carmen, on April 24, 2006. Alleging that she had climbed on top of one of his old jalopies, he shot her in the neck with a rifle. (See Cat Defender post of June 22, 2006 entitled "Used Car Dealer in Virginia Murders Sweet Three-Year-Old Cat Named Carmen with Rifle Shot to the Neck.")
During cross-examination at his trial on August 22, 2006, Seymour finally came clean and admitted that he had never seen Carmen on any of his cars. Nevertheless, District Court Judge Steven Helvin sentenced him to only ten days in jail and an unspecified amount of community service.
The pain occasioned by Carmen's unprovoked and brutal murder is something that the Wintersteigers' children, Nicholas and Isabella, are going to carry with them for as long as they live. (See photo on the left of them kneeling at Carmen's grave and the one below of Isabella and Carmen in happier days.)
Like his soul mate and fellow villain Seymour, Houston clearly is an inveterate cat-hater and in all likelihood concocted the entire story about Rowdy being on top of his vehicles just so that he would have an excuse in order to justify his criminal behavior. On those rare occasions when cats do jump on top of parked cars it is either to soak up the evaporating heat given off by a cooling engine or when they are in search of higher ground in order to avoid both human and animal predators.
Besides, exterior paint jobs are made to withstand flying gravel, sand, mud, hail, and other harmful particles. If that were not the case, every vehicle on the road would look like it had been bombarded by meteorites. Consequently, the absolute worst that a cat can do to the paint on an automobile is to leave behind harmless paw prints that are easily expunged with a dry cloth.
Since Houston resides in a rural area, it is more likely than not that if he did discover smudges on his vehicles that they were put there by wildlife instead of Rowdy. Nevertheless, unsubstantiated, bogus charges of this sort are a common occurrence that cost countless cats their lives each year.
For example, a Singaporean woman last year demanded that all the cats in her neighborhood be rounded up and killed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority after she detected smudges on the exterior of her precious new jalopy. (See Asia One, June 6, 2009, "Why Kill a Cat Over Scratches on Car?")
Houston is by no means the first law enforcement officer to believe that he has a God-given right to kill cats. For example, on March 22, 2008 a police officer in Cecil, Pennsylvania, executed Roger Oldaker's Persian cat, Elmo. (See Cat Defender post of March 31, 2008 entitled "Cecil, Pennsylvania, Police Officer Summarily Executes Family's Beloved Ten-Year-Old Persian, Elmo.")
On Labor Day of last year, officers in Raymore, Missouri, likewise killed Kelly Wesner's cat, Tobey. (See Cat Defender post of September 16, 2009 entitled "Acting Solely Upon the Lies of a Cat-Hater, Raymore Police Pump Two Shotgun Blasts into the Head of Nineteen-Year-Old Declawed and Deaf Tobey.")
In both cases, the officers falsely claimed that their victims were either strays or ferals. Plus, in Tobey's case, they claimed that the declawed cat had his claws extended. Anyone who ever has had the misfortune to deal with the members of the law enforcement community knows that they seldom tell the truth about anything.
In 2008, members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department even were accused of killing a cat with a Taser. (See Cat Defender post of April 29, 2008 entitled "Orange County Sheriff's Department Is Accused of Killing a Cat with a Taser at Theo Lacy Jail.")
The fact that Houston was able to get away scot-free with killing Rowdy is outrageous but it would be almost as deplorable if he were given his old job back. He has proven himself to be a cat killer and a criminal and as such does not have any business wearing a badge and carrying a gun.
Those who care about cats and justice are therefore encouraged to contact the North Carolina state Highway Patrol and voice their opposition to Houston's reinstatement. The force's commander, Colonel William Randy Glover, can be reached by telephone at (919) 733-4030 or by mail at 4701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4701. He also can be contacted via e-mail at www.nccrimecontrol.org.
It probably will not do any good in that the members of the law enforcement community are as thick as thieves but it is worth a try. Besides, North Carolina's Highway Patrol is rotten to the core with more than just cat killers.
For example, in recent memory a sergeant has been fired for abusing his canine partner while other officers have been forced to resign for perjuring themselves. A major was forced to resign for sending sexually explicit text messages while another officer is being investigated for sexually assaulting a motorist. Furthermore, a captain was fired for drunk driving and a master trooper was forced to resign after being charged in a felony hit-and-run while drunk.
The picture is thus crystal clear. The Highway Patrol is comprised of cat killers, dog abusers, sexual predators, drunks, perjurers, and God only know what else.
Since the iron rule of oligarchy holds sway in all groups and organizations, it is difficult to believe that there are any decent, law-abiding officers within the department. How could they possibly survive? Like fish out of water, they would be ostracized.
Despite all of that and more, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue continues to deny the obvious. "Although I continue to believe that 99.9 per cent of the men and women of the North Carolina Highway Patrol are doing tremendous work for the people of North Carolina, that small percentage that we read about or hear about every day are killing the image of the patrol," she told the News and Observer on July 8th. (See "Perdue: A Few Troopers Are 'Killing' Highway Patrol's Image.")
Therefore, to hear Perdue tell it, the systemic problems of corruption and criminal misconduct plaguing the Highway Patrol amount to only a public relations problem. Glover, on the other hand, blames his department's troubles on the press. (See photo of him below.)
"I'm taking care of business on a daily basis. I go to the east and I talk to people. I go to the west and I talk to people," Glover told the News and Observer in the July 8th article cited supra. "I don't hear a lot about this. It's when I'm in the Piedmont that I hear this. And I always ask, 'Where did you hear that?' And it always comes back to the media."
Perdue's maladroit attempt to whitewash the issue and Glover's attack upon both the press and central North Carolina's better-educated residents produced a swift response from Joe Sinsheimer of the Democratic Party. "I think all North Carolina was hoping the governor would show some real leadership, which would mean replacing the commander of the Highway Patrol," he told the News and Observer on July 8th. "And instead all we got today were words and no action. It's pretty clear the Highway Patrol needs a cultural change and that change has to come from the top."
It is not any small wonder that Glover is so tolerant of his subordinates' misconduct in that earlier in his career he received a disciplinary transfer because of an extramarital affair that he had with a dispatcher in an unidentified sheriff's department. Additionally, it is believed by some that he got his present post solely because he is one of Perdue's cronies from New Bern.
Despite the harsh reality of the situation, opposing Houston's reinstatement would at least be one way of demonstrating support for Evans and her distraught family. They are all alone in a small rural community with a cat-killer for a next-door neighbor. Worst of all, they have been denied the protection of the law and the courts.
Their world has been turned upside down and it is doubtful that any of them have had much repose during the past nine or so months. "It's been rough on us; it really has been," Evans told the News and Observer on May 29th.
After retrieving what little was left of Rowdy after Houston had pumped a nine-millimeter slug into his tiny body, Evans buried him on her property following a memorial service. For his part, Houston never has so much as apologized to Evans for either killing Rowdy or what he has done to her, her husband, and children.
A civil suit against Houston is one possibility but since the courts in North Carolina have demonstrated time and time again their utter contempt for cats and other animals that also would be a long shot. (See Cat Defender posts of January 29, 2007 and February 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "PETA's Long History of Killing Cats and Dogs Is Finally Exposed in North Carolina Courtroom" and " Verdict in PETA Trial: Littering Is a Crime but Not the Mass Slaughter of Innocent Cats and Dogs.")
What Houston fully deserves is a measure of what he gave Rowdy. The only drawback with that is the courts surely would lock up Evans for the remainder of her life if she took the law into her own hands. Nonetheless, that is bound to happen sooner or later if this society does not start to better protect cats and other animals.
In the final analysis, Evans has little choice in the matter other than to vacate Granite Falls regardless of how difficult that may be. Houston is behaving as if had a letter of marquis and is sure to become even more emboldened with the corresponding success of each of his stratagems.
Should Evans acquire another cat, he is likely to kill it also. It even is conceivable that he might attempt to harm either her or her children in some way.
Her sad and scary situation is totally untenable unless she wants to live behind a barricade and to carry a gun at all times. Moreover, Houston is not about to pull up stakes on his own volition and even the four horsemen of the Apocalypse would be hard pressed to get rid of his kind.
Sadly, Rowdy is dead and will not be coming back but Evans still has her life ahead of her and her family to consider. If she has learned anything worthwhile from this tragic experience it is that in the United States the good guys only win in the movies.
Photos: Gather.com (Houston), Andrea Evans (Rowdy), The Hook of Charlottesville (the Wintersteiger children at Carmen's grave and Isabella with Carmen), and WRAL-TV of Raleigh (Glover).