KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A Readsboro man pleaded not guilty Monday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to allegedly killing two cats belonging to two different tenants.
Michael R. Choquette, 45, was charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. He was released on conditions he appear in court later, not consume alcohol, and not have contact with complaining witnesses.
According to an affidavit by Trooper Robert Zink, of the Vermont State Police, on March 12 he was contacted by Kelly Gancarz, who rents an apartment from Choquette and lives above him. She said she believed Choquette had killed her cat "Dizzy" and put the body in an outdoor wood furnace.
Gancarz told police that when she first moved in, Choquette told her that he'd killed the previous tenant's cat by putting out a bowl with antifreeze, which it drank and then had to be euthanized. She said she had also spoken to Bonnie Sunn, Choquette's ex-wife, who still lives with him, and claimed Sunn had told her Choquette also poisoned their dog.
According to the affidavit, Gancarz told police that on March 11 at around 10:30 p.m. she heard her cat meowing as though it were in distress. She called for it, and it did not come, then when she went inside she noticed the light from the outdoor wood furnace. She told police that the next day she could not locate her cat, so she checked the furnace and found what looked to be bones inside. She said she then contacted Readsboro Animal Control Officer Marcia Evans, who identified the bones as being feline.
Zink wrote that Gancarz told him she spoke to Choquette over the phone using the speaker function. With her was her friend Lonnie Poirot. Gancarz said Choquette admitted that he had accidentally killed her cat with a piece of wood, then put the body in the furnace.
Sunn told police the cat in question had been making noise, and that Choquette mentioned he might shoot it with a BB gun. She said she suggested that was a bad idea and he should speak to Gancarz about it instead. She told police that on March 12, Choquette came inside from stocking the wood furnace and told her he'd accidentally killed the cat and put the body in the boiler.
Zink wrote that Sunn told him the previous tenant, Amanda Strange, had owned a cat but it got into some antifreeze and had to be euthanized. She said she did not know how it came to consume the chemical. She told Zink that over the years numerous cats had been found dead near the road by the property, but she did not feel it was odd. She denied telling Gancarz anything about Choquette killing a dog or any other animal.
Zink said he met Choquette at his job in Whitingham, and Choquette told him he had been having problems with the cat making noise. He said he spoke to Gancarz about it, but she did nothing. He said he was out filling the wood furnace and had been drinking when he heard the cat again. He said he threw a piece of wood in its direction, it bounced, and hit the cat, killing it. He said he put the cat in the furnace to avoid repercussions from Gancarz. He said the animal was dead when it went in the boiler.
Zink wrote that on March 15 he spoke to Strange, who said in March 2011 her cat went missing. She said she was called by Sunn, who said it was sick and had to be put down. Strange said she refused to pay the vet bill because she heard her cat had been poisoned. Strange told police that Choquette later spoke to her, saying he used rat poison to kill the animal because he does not allow outdoor animals on his property.
Sunn told police she did find Strange's cat out sick and took it to the vet where it was euthanized, but denied Choquette said anything about poisoning it.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr