11/18/2005

Judge makes ruling to show ex-animal rescuer what it was like for the kittens she abandoned

Michelle Murray will now have the opportunity to experience what the dozens of kittens felt the night she abandoned them at two Lake Metroparks in September.Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael A. Cicconetti on Thursday sentenced Murray, 25, of Painesville Township, to jail time.But he added a stipulation to ensure that Murray "suffer the same consequences as those kittens.""You can listen to the coyotes, hear the raccoons in the dark of night," said Cicconetti, who grew increasingly annoyed at Murray's apology attempts in court.On the night before Thanksgiving, when Murray reports to the Lake County Jail in Painesville, she will be forced to spend a night alone in a remote area of a Lake County Metropark, according to Cicconetti sentence.Being allowed only water, she will not be provided with food, beverage or shelter. Murray must remain in that location until "the light of dawn on Nov. 24," according to the sentence.Ranger Chief Mike Burko said he has not yet chosen the Metropark, but will provide her with a walkie-talkie in case of emergency.Cicconetti, known for his unusual sentences, gave Murray the maximum sentence of 90 days in jail. But the judge suspended 60 days and allowed 15 days to be served under house arrest. After returning from the wild on Thanksgiving, she will serve 14 days in the Lake County Jail.

The suspended jail time hinges on two conditions:
- Murray may not own or care for any animals in the next three years.
- She must pay $3,200 to the Lake County Humane Society and $500 to the Metropark rangers for costs they incurred due to her actions.

"I'm sorry. I truly am sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen," Murray told the judge before the sentence.She said she tried to contact the Lake County Humane Society, but eventually panicked after three cages of cats were dropped off at her home."It doesn't make any difference," the judge said. "People panic and commit crimes, they use drugs, they commit domestic violence. But this wasn't one incident. You did it again the next day."Murray admitted to using another alias on a Web site to try to adopt out another stray cat since she pleaded guilty to abandoning domestic animals on Oct. 13. She said she used the fake name because nobody would take a cat from her if she used her own name. That cat was eventually adopted by the Humane Society, but was so ill, it was euthanized the day it came in.Candace Hertzel, executive director of the Lake County Humane Society, said 15 of the kittens that were rescued had been adopted; 12 still remain without homes."We're very pleasantly surprised by the sentence. It's a small piece of justice suffered for some of these already deceased kittens," Hertzel said outside the courtroom following the sentence.Prosecutor Russ Meraglio said he was pleased as well. He had recommended jail time for the second-degree misdemeanor.Sharon Moten, who gave a mother cat and four kittens to Murray 10 days prior to her abandoning the animals, still felt the guilt of not knowing the fate of all of her cats."I told her to call me if she couldn't handle them," Moten said.She hoped the sentence would prompt donations to the Humane Society."It's one of the only ways I can feel better about what happened," she said.

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