SAN ANDREAS, Calif. — A Copperopolis man accused of killing a beloved pet cat and showing the disturbing images on social media made his first appearance before a judge Monday.
A smiling Colton Fontes left the Calaveras County Superior Courthouse in San Andreas with no comment. Clinton Parish, his attorney from Sonora who ABC10 contacted by phone, also offered no comment.
The 19-year-old is charged with one felony count of animal cruelty in the shooting death of a pet cat affectionately known as Mr. Meow.
"I'm just glad that the criminal justice system is taking it seriously, and it's not just being swept under the rug," said Braeden Hall, the cat's co-owner.
The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office said Fontes at first denied involvement in the March death, but then ultimately admitted to the killing.
"This is actually our first time seeing him in person, so that was interesting. He did make a comment that seemed a little smug. He walked past and said 'Hey guys,' like as if nothing was a big deal," said the cat's co-owner, Allie Effisimo.
The case has garnered national attention by a non-profit out of Washington D.C. that gives a voice to cats.
Becky Robinson, the founder of Alley Cat Allies, said, in part, in a statement to ABC10 that "This was an intentional act of cruelty that demands a vigorous prosecution and the maximum penalty from the courts. Cats suffer and feel pain. Violence toward cats and other animals are frequently just the starting point for additional criminal behavior. Well established research has identified the link between violence against cats and violence against humans."
The young couple befriended Mr. Meow, when he was just a stray cat, taking him into their Copperopolis area home in January.
"Mr. Meow like showed up on our doorstep, quite literally, and was like an angel cat," Effisimo said.
Recently, the pair adopted two young kittens, Ozzie and Jimmy, named after famous musicians Jimi Hendrix and Ozzy Osborn. But, they want no one to forget their beloved feline, Mr. Meow.
In December 2020, Fontes was arrested on two misdemeanor charges, including one for alleged battery. He was found guilty of battery and plead no contest to disturbing the peace.
If convicted on the current felony charge of animal cruelty, Fontes faces up to three years in behind bars and up to a $20,000 fine. He is back in court next Monday at 8:30 a.m.