(last updated at 10:00pm Central Standard Time, on February 1st, 2004)
"The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." – Albert Einstein
In memory of Cato, who was abandoned by a former neighbor before he became our cat,
The Stray Cat's Prayer is located at the bottom of this page.
Our cat Cato was hung by:
Mr. John Moll of 18 Misty Water Lane, Mary Esther, Florida 32569 (USA)
at about 9:00am on Wednesday, October 15th, 2003.
"A reasonable person would have known that this kind of contraption would cause whatever animal it caught to suffer a painful death." – Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Rick Hord (Cato was killed in Okaloosa County, Florida)
''That device, no matter what it caught, was intentionally put there to cause a cruel death.'' – PAWS Executive Director Dee Thompson (who responded to the crime scene, and saw the evidence first-hand)
"Based upon the photos and the evidence, I believe the animal suffered a cruel death by strangulation." – Deputy Mark Justiss, the Crime Scene Officer, from page #3 of the official Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office Offense Report.
However, on Thursday, January 29th, 2004, Florida Assistant State Attorney David E. Fleet decided that:
"There is insufficient evidence to prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Evidence shows that defendant used a lawful snare in a lawful manner with an unintentional and unfortunate consequence".
This is in spite of the fact that Florida law clearly states that a person who intentionally commits an act which results in the cruel death of any animal is guilty of a felony.
John Moll intentionally chose to setup the trap that hung Cato, instead of using the humane trap that was in his possession. And, as a result, Cato died of strangulation, which most reasonable people would consider to be a cruel death.
Again, Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Rick Hord may have put it best when he said:
"A reasonable person would have known that this kind of contraption would cause whatever animal it caught to suffer a painful death."
Therefore, if a reasonable person would have known the likely outcome of setting up such a trap, shouldn't John Moll have also known?
Please examine the rest of this website, and see what you think...
For various reasons, some people may not wish to view the following pictures, several of which show Cato hanging by his neck.
If you'd like to jump directly to the section following the pictures, which contains several newspaper articles and various other updates, then please click here.
(This is some extra blank space to minimize the possibility of you seeing the following pictures if you don't want to.)
Here are the pictures I just barely had time to take, with some updates afterwards:
This is what my wife Pauline saw as she went to get our morning paper on Wednesday, October 15th, 2003 (our cat Cato hanging by the neck from a wire noose in our neighbor John Moll's yard):
Here's John Moll arriving to release Cato from the wire noose:
The following two pictures show Mr. Moll removing the heavy weight that was at the other end of the wire noose that Cato was suspended from:
Cato's lifeless body lying on the ground:
This final photo shows Cato being carried towards John Moll's trash can (which is where the Animal Control Officer had to force Mr. Moll to retrieve Cato's body from):
During the initial crime scene response, one of the representatives from the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) said something to the effect that it was very revealing that Mr. Moll had a humane trap in the back of his vehicle, yet apparently chose not to use it.
Just a few minutes after the Deputy Sheriff and representatives from PAWS left the crime scene, Mr. Moll shouted from over his fence to my wife, "You better keep your cat out of my yard, too!" – presumably referring to our other outside cat (Fluffy) who was lying on our driveway at the time. We called the investigating officer (Deputy Mark Justiss) to ensure that he would add Mr. Moll's comments to his report. And, for obvious reasons, Fluffy is now an indoor cat.
Then, as I was placing a letter into my mailbox at about 10:30am on Friday morning, October 17th, 2003, I noticed John Moll at the other end of his front yard. When he saw me starting to walk back towards our house, in a strained, almost painful voice, he slowly and deliberately shrieked "meow" three times in a row. There was a distinct emphasis on the "ow" sound.
Then, at 10:15am on Saturday, October 18th, 2003, John Moll pulled his pickup truck out of his driveway. My wife had just put a letter into our mailbox and was about to return to our house. I was keeping an eye on her while I was changing a box of cat litter by the entrance to our garage. Just then, John Moll backed his pickup truck in front of our driveway, lowered the passenger window about half way, and shouted "meow" at Pauline before driving away. His wife Kathy was in the front passenger seat.
Here's the text from an article that appeared in a number of Associated Press papers in the USA on Thursday, October 16th, 2003:
MARY ESTHER, Fla. (AP) - Okaloosa County sheriff's deputies and state prosecutors are trying to determine if it was a crime to hang Cato the cat.
The cat's owner, Mark Blair, calls it murder. His neighbor, John Moll, says the cat was the unintended victim of a homemade snare he had set to prevent raccoons from killing goldfish in his backyard ponds.
Sheriff's spokesman Rick Hord said there is no law specifically prohibiting such traps, but investigators were trying to ascertain whether it resulted in animal cruelty.
Blair's wife, Pauline, said she found the orange cat ''strung up by its neck'' from a tree in Moll's yard Wednesday.
''My wife came in screaming,'' Mark Blair said. ''I can't believe anyone could do this to an animal.''
Moll said he never planned to kill anything but merely wanted to catch the raccoons and turn them over to the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). He said food the Blairs left out for the cat was attracting raccoons, foxes and possums.
''I think you've got a right to protect your yard and your things,'' Moll said.
Blair accused Moll of deliberately killing Cato because of disagreements they have had. PAWS Executive Director Dee Thompson agreed and said she plans to recommend that Moll be charged with animal cruelty.
''That device, no matter what it caught, was intentionally put there to cause a cruel death,'' she said.
Moll said he had called PAWS about the wild animals and was told he could rent traps.
''I don't think you should have to spend money to get those creatures out of your property,'' he said.
Update #1: On Thursday morning, October 23rd, 2003, John Moll was arrested on felony animal cruelty charges. Please refer to section (2) below for more details on this charge . He was subsequently released on $1000 bond.
The full text of the article entitled "Man charged in hanging death of neighbor's pet", which appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Friday, October 24th, 2003, is located just after the following section...
Here's an extract from the 2003 Florida Statutes, with highlights added for emphasis (the full statute is located here):
In this chapter, and in every law of the state relating to or in any way affecting animals, the word "animal" shall be held to include every living dumb creature; the words "torture," "torment," and "cruelty" shall be held to include every act, omission, or neglect whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering is caused, except when done in the interest of medical science, permitted, or allowed to continue when there is reasonable remedy or relief; and the words "owner" and "person" shall be held to include corporations, and the knowledge and acts of agents and employees of corporations in regard to animals transported, owned, employed by or in the custody of a corporation, shall be held to be the knowledge and act of such corporation.
828.12 Cruelty to animals.
(2) A person who intentionally commits an act to any animal which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.
By Amber Bollman
Daily News Staff Writer
A 62-year-old Fort Walton Beach man whose homemade trap snared and hanged a neighbor’s cat last week was arrested Thursday morning on felony animal cruelty charges.
John Moll turned himself in to authorities after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Rick Hord said investigators, along with representatives from the state attorney’s office, determined that Moll’s actions did qualify as cruelty to animals, according to the state of Florida’s definition.
“According to the language of the statute, you don’t have to intend to harm a specific animal,” Hord said. “But if you take deliberate action that leads to the cruel death of an animal, that meets the standard.
“A reasonable person would have known that this kind of contraption would cause whatever animal it caught to suffer a painful death.”
Moll’s neighbors on Misty Water Lane, Mark and Pauline Blair, found their outside cat, Cato, hanging from one of Moll’s trees last Wednesday morning.
The cat was dead, caught in a noose tightened around its neck by a counterbalancing weight.
Moll told investigators at the time that he had rigged the trap to catch raccoons that had been eating the fish in his backyard ponds and wreaking havoc in his yard.
The Blairs, however, contended that their cat had been intentionally murdered because of a series of disputes with Moll.
Officials from the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society urged criminal charges against Moll because they said, regardless of what animal the trap was intended to capture, it was meant to kill in an inhumane and cruel manner.
“This is not the correct way to trap anything,” said Dee Thompson, PAWS executive director.
Thompson said she has received telephone calls from local and national representatives of the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Both groups offered to support PAWS if local law enforcement authorities decided not to pursue criminal charges, Thompson said.
“Fortunately, though, the state attorney’s office and the judge agreed with us,” she said.
“This is something that shouldn’t have happened.”
Update #2: On Tuesday morning, December 2nd, 2003, John Moll was arraigned on charges of felony animal cruelty, with the trial date in the the case of the State of Florida vs. John Moll set for January 20th, 2004.
Note: We were notified by Assistant Florida State Attorney David Fleet on December 31st, 2003 that the trial would now probably not be held until some time in February – to allow more time to gather evidence.
The full text of the article which appeared on the Front Page of the Northwest Florida Daily News on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003, follows:
▪ Organization wants to ensure that Okaloosa County takes animal cruelty charges seriously.
By Tom McLaughlin
Daily News Staff Writer
When Fort Walton Beach resident John Moll appears in court to face a felony cruelty to animal charge, the eyes of the world's largest animal rights organization will be on both him and his prosecutors.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals served notice Monday that it finds Moll's use of a snare that left a neighbor's cat hanging from a tree "at best irresponsible and careless, and at worst idiotic and petty."
PETA urged state attorney David Fleet to "vigorously prosecute" Moll, and to seek jail time and psychiatric intervention if Moll is convicted.
"This is a public safety issue as well as an animal welfare issue," said Daniel Paden, a cruelty caseworker for PETA. "Someone who is capable of cruelty to animals... a lot of them have gone on to commit crimes against children and spouses."
Moll was arrested on Oct. 23 on the cruelty to animal charge. The arrest came almost a week after Pauline Blair discovered her cat Cato hanging from a tree in Moll's yard.
The Blairs then watched and photographed Moll as he removed Cato's corpse from the snare and dropped the body into a garbage can.
Moll told authorities who came to his home to retrieve the cat that he was using the homemade snare to catch raccoons and other wild animals that were eating his goldfish. His story didn't fly with Dee Thompson, director of Okaloosa County's Panhandle Animal Welfare Society.
"It's inhumane regardless of what he was trying to catch," Thompson said.
PETA decided to get involved in Moll's case this week on the mistaken impression that his trial was scheduled to begin today. Actually, an arraignment hearing will be held today in Crestview.
Moll said Monday he has already arranged to enter a not guilty plea.
A trial date will be scheduled at today's hearing, Fleet said.
For his part, the prosecuting attorney said he would pursue the case against Moll, "as vigorously as the evidence will allow."
PETA's Paden said in his letter to Fleet that the organization "has been and continues to be inundated with calls from outraged Okaloosa County residents" about the death of Cato. The Blairs have graphically documented photos of the snared cat and broadcast them over the Internet on a Web site they created.
Thompson said that, along with PETA, she has fielded calls from the Humane Society of the United States, which has also offered to investigate the case.
Paden said that PETA intends to watch the proceedings against Moll to ensure that the cruelty to animal charge is taken seriously.
"We'll observe, and if we have an indication these kind of cases are being dismissed and animal welfare is being threatened by inaction, we would become more involved than we are now," he said.
"Certainly we'll be looking at how the Okaloosa County judicial system handles this," Paden said.
Thompson said she's grateful PETA has taken an interest in the Moll case, but believes past performance indicates Okaloosa County prosecutors take cruelty to animal cases seriously.
"I don't want PETA to think that if they don't do that (get involved) our judicial system wouldn't take this as seriously as they would otherwise," she said.
Thompson added "the only person that is not taking it seriously is Mr. Moll."
Moll did say, "I'm not surprised PETA is involved, the way the newspaper has blown this all out of proportion."
"People are coming to me from all over telling me how ridiculous PETA is," Moll said. Moll also blames his neighbors, the Blairs, for fanning the flames that led to his arrest on felony charges. He said Cato wasn't even their cat, but a feral cat they were feeding.
"A feral cat comes into my yard and happens to be the unintentional victim of my trap – which, by the way, is legal," he said.
Moll felt sure that evidence of his long-standing feud with the Blairs would come out at his trial. He called Mark Blair a "neighbor from hell."
"We'll just see how it comes out," he said.
Both Moll and Pauline Blair recounted stories of animosity that began shortly after Moll moved into the waterfront neighborhood four years ago. Moll, Pauline Blair said, has cut down the Blair's mailbox with a chainsaw. He's also cut down trees in her yard to get a view of his sailboat, she said, and "meowed" at her after Cato's death.
Moll doesn't deny either the chainsaw incident or the meowing. He does defend himself in both instances, however.
The mailbox was constructed on his property, he said, and the meowing came after Paul Blair berated him as a "bastard."
Also, here's a copy of the News Release which was posted on PETA's website on
December 1st, 2003:
Community Should Fear Future Incidents, Say Experts
For Immediate Release:
December 1, 2003
Daniel Paden 757-622-7382
This morning, PETA fired off a letter to Assistant State Attorney David Fleet, urging him to vigorously prosecute John Moll of Mary Esther. Moll faces felony charges stemming from the reported October 15 hanging death of his neighbor’s cat, Cato, after the animal allegedly fell prey to a homemade snare affixed to a tree in his backyard. Cato’s guardian reportedly believed that Moll’s alleged act was in retaliation for previous disagreements between the two. Moll is scheduled to face these charges in court tomorrow, December 2.
"Animal abusers are cowards," says PETA Cruelty Caseworker Daniel Paden. "They take their issues out on the most defenseless beings available to them. Area residents have reason to be concerned. According to leading mental health professionals and law-enforcement agencies, perpetrators of violent acts against animals are often repeat offenders who pose a serious threat not only to other animals, but to the community as a whole."
PETA is also sending its brand-new anti-violence public service announcement, hosted by actor Dennis Franz, who plays Andy Sipowicz on the hit drama NYPD Blue, to TV stations serving the Mary Esther area.
For more information, please visit HelpingAnimals.com.
PETA’s letter to Assistant State Attorney David Fleet follows.
December 1, 2003
David Fleet, Assistant State Attorney
First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office
1B Ninth Ave.
Shalimar, FL 32579
Dear Mr. Fleet:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the world’s largest animal rights organization, with more than 750,000 members and supporters dedicated to animal protection. Our office has been and continues to be inundated with calls from outraged Okaloosa County residents regarding a recent case of cruelty to animals that your office is reviewing, involving John Moll, 62, of 18 Misty Water Ln. in Mary Esther. Moll faces felony charges stemming from the reported October 15 hanging death of his neighbor’s cat, Cato. News sources indicate that the cat was "strung up by [her] neck" in a homemade snare affixed to a tree in Moll’s backyard. One official reportedly believed that Moll deliberately targeted Cato following disagreements that he had with her guardians. According to the Web site RememberCato.com, which is apparently maintained by Cato’s guardians, authorities recovered the cat’s lifeless body from Moll’s trash can, and Moll has—subsequent to the alleged attack—taunted the cat’s guardians with "meowing" sounds and threatened them on at least two occasions.
We understand that Moll will appear in court on December 2 to answer these charges.
Mental health professionals and top law-enforcement officials consider cruelty to animals to be a red flag. The American Psychiatric Association identifies animal abuse as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses reports of such crimes in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals. When asked how many serial killers had a history of abusing animals, FBI supervisory special agent Alan Brantley, a psychologist who was formerly on staff at a maximum security prison, said, "The real question should be, how many have not?" Experts agree that it is the severity of the behavior—not the species of the victim—that matters (see enclosure).
We ask that, upon conviction and in addition to a period of incarceration, John Moll be required to undergo a thorough psychological evaluation followed by mandatory counseling and anger-management classes at his own expense. Because repeat crimes are the rule rather than the exception among animal abusers and given the premeditated, malicious, and supremely idiotic nature of his alleged actions that day, we implore you to take every measure necessary to ensure that Moll is prohibited from all contact with animals, to determine whether he currently has animals in his custody, and to immediately seize any such animals.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Daniel Paden, Cruelty Caseworker
Domestic Animal Issues & Abuse Department
Update #3: On Wednesday, December 31st, 2003, we received a copy of the official Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office Offense Report. The following section contains direct quotes from pages #3 and #4 of this report, with highlights added for emphasis:
1. Moll admitted to building and placing the trap.
2. A reasonable person would have knowledge that the type of trap used by Moll has the potential to cause injury or death to any animal that it catches.
3. Moll had in his possession a trap specifically designed to capture a live animal without causing harm, sufficient in size to capture a raccoon, and the trap was not used.
4. Based upon the photos and the evidence, I believe the animal suffered a cruel death by strangulation.
In ref to this investigation the deceased house cat remains were taken into custody by the Okaloosa Animal Service Division and transported to their facility for a necropsy. A necropsy was conducted by their veterinarian and a written statement was provided detailing their findings. The report indicated that ligature marks were found around the cat’s neck and on the trachea. The trachea was also found of bloody froth and their findings stated this evidence was consistent with strangulation.
Update #4: On Friday, January 30thm 2003, the following article appeared on the the very top of the first page of the Local/State section of the Northwest Florida Daily News:
▪ Prosecutor says he doesn't have enough evidence to try man accused of hanging cat.
By Jeff Ayres
Daily News Staff Writer
The prosecution of a Mary Esther man charged with animal cruelty won't go forward because there isn't sufficient evidence to suggest he intentionally set a homemade trap to kill his neighbors' cat, the case's prosecutor said.
Assistant State Attorney David Fleet said Thursday he is filing paperwork to drop prosecution of John Moll. He was charged in October after Cato, a stray cat cared for by Moll's neighbors, Mark and Pauline Blair, was found hanging from a tree at Moll's Misty Water Lane home.
Fleet said evidence pointed toward the incident being "an accident, unfortunate and inadvertent. Everything indicates it was an accident. It was a lawful snare used in a lawful manner, with an unintended result."
But the charge itself isn't being dismissed, Fleet said, in the event that new evidence surfaces.
Mark Blair, who, along with his wife, had cared for Cato since last summer, was discouraged with the decision.
He called it a "very, very wrong decision. It basically gives carte blanche to people who want to mistreat animals in Okaloosa County."
Blair added he was surprised by the decision also, explaining he felt the evidence and Florida law were on his side.
Fleet acknowledged the decision may prove to be unpopular with many people but said he simply couldn't continue to prosecute the case with the evidence he has.
Moll has maintained that he made the snare, in which a counterbalancing weight was used to tighten a noose, to catch raccoons he believed were traipsing onto his property and eating goldfish kept in a backyard pond.
That would constitute lawful use of the snare, Fleet explained.
Moll has denied intentionally trying to snare Cato. The case drew scrutiny from the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"I'm glad to hear it," Moll said of Fleet's decision. "That's good news. I felt quite confident, because I had done nothing wrong."
The snare is a replica of a model commonly used by federal and state government officials to catch animals that are larger than cats, such as foxes, Fleet said.
That was one reason Fleet said the snare didn't appear to be intentionally set to kill Cato.
Moll said he's caught several raccoons on his property since the snare was taken into evidence by investigators.
"I seem to have eliminated the problem," he said. "My goldfish have a reprieve."
Meanwhile, Blair said the incident has changed the way he looks after other stray animals that show up on his property.
He said he now keeps a couple of other stray cats inside his home constantly after what happened to Cato.
Feel like expressing your opinion? Here are some options to consider:
1) Let John Moll know how you feel. His contact information is at the top of this page.
2) Let the Florida State Attorney's office know how you feel. Their address is:
Curtis A. Golden
State Attorney, First Judicial Circuit
1-B Ninth Avenue
Shalimar, Florida 32579
3) Write a letter to our local newspaper, the Northwest Florida Daily News at:
Letters to the Editor
Northwest Florida Daily News
P.O. Box 2949
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549 USA
FAX: (850) 863-7834
Please note that they request that you limit your letter to no more than 200 words, and they normally only accept one letter per month from the same person. They also state that "letters may be edited for clarity and brevity."
4) Send an e-mail to RememberCato@axyl.com and we'll consider posting it on this website, even if it was already submitted to the Northwest Florida Daily News. If you'd prefer to remain anonymous (to avoid any possible retaliation by Mr. Moll, etc.), please be sure to mention that somewhere in your e-mail.
5) Tell your friends about this website ( http://RememberCato.com ). It will be updated as the situation develops.
6) Consider making a donation to PAWS in memory of Cato. They're located at 752 Lovejoy Road, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 32548 – and their website is: http://www.paws-shelter.com .
Dear God, please send me somebody who'll care.