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Judge advances to county court charges against pair in case of missing Schuylkill Haven cat

The attorney representing two of the three defendants in the case of Catalina the missing cat sought to have charges dismissed at a preliminary hearing on Tuesday.

However, District Judge Andrew J. Serina, Orwigsburg, declined to do so.

Serina said that he doesn’t get to decide who is accurate or telling the truth, but conceded, “I think there are trial issues here.”

Pottsville-based attorney Stephen T. Carpenito, who is representing Nathan Youst, 19, of Schuylkill Haven, and Ayden Spantak, 19, of Cressona, tried to make the case that there was not enough evidence to send the charges to county court for the Dec. 31 incident.

Andrew Huber, 26, another defendant who at the time lived at the home in Schuylkill Haven, is also charged in the disappearance of the cat.

“We don’t even get close to a preponderance of the evidence,” Carpenito said in seeking to have the charges dismissed.

First Assistant District Attorney Michael J. Stine said that just as there can be a homicide without a body being discovered, there can be a crime without an animal being found.

State police at Schuylkill Haven charged all three men on Jan. 10 in the disappearance of the cat.

Yost and Spantak were charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and theft, both felonies; cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor; and neglect of animals, a summary offense.

They sat next to Carpenito during the 90-minute hearing.

After the hearing, at which Isabella Cruz, Catalina’s owner, Tandi Kashner, dog manager at Ruth Steinert Memorial SPCA, and Huber testified, the charges against Youst and Spantak were held for court, with the exception of theft.

That charge was downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor because the monetary value of the mixed-breed cat could not be determined.

Huber’s attorney, Eric M. Prock of Pottsville, said that the charges against his client were waived to court. Before he testified, Huber waived his Fifth Amendment rights to self-incrimination.

He is charged with two counts each of aggravated cruelty to animals and theft, felonies; two counts of cruelty to animals, misdemeanors; and neglect of animals, a summary charge.

Cruz admitted that she was nervous while giving her testimony and at times attempted to clarify what she had said moments earlier.

She testified that she noticed Catalina was missing Jan. 2 when she went to feed the numerous cats at the residence.

She had not been at the home Dec. 31 but arrived home Jan. 1. She went to bed after Huber, who didn’t say anything about Catalina, picked her up from Philadelphia, Cruz said.

“I freaked out, and I was literally looking everywhere,” she said, describing her search for Catalina.

A video of the cat inside a bag in which it could be heard yowling prompted her to contact police. Cruz went looking for the animal on Berne Drive with others after someone said that the cat had been abandoned in that area.

Kashner testified that she spoke with Spantak at his home and said he admitted “they chucked it (the cat) out the back (of a vehicle) as they were moving.”

She said the shelter was told the cat was abandoned along Berne Drive after the defendants allegedly bragged about it. However, Kashner said, she didn’t confirm with anyone that the cat had been thrown out along Berne Drive.

Huber testified that he was upset that his kitten, which is not Catalina, was placed by Youst in a bag; it did not remain there. He said that Youst then put Catalina in the bag, which Youst later put on the porch.

Huber said that he put the bag holding Catalina in the back of the truck that all three later occupied.

“I thought we were going to take her somewhere else to live,” he said when asked where he thought the cat was going.

Huber said that Youst drove the truck for a while, stopped and got out for between three and five minutes before getting back inside.

Huber testified that he doesn’t know what happened to the bag.

Afterward, Youst went home and Spantak slept over, Huber said.


Source: Berkshire mont

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