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10/14/2012 6:01:00 AM
Cat theft case against Kingman advocate won't go away
County files charges against woman who was trying to help Golden Valley hoarder
Courtesy
Kristin Freiert’s work as an animal rescuer was profiled in a cover story in “The Mohave Dog” last year. She is charged with a single count of theft over a cat she removed from the home of a Golden Valley woman in April 2011.
Courtesy
Kristin Freiert’s work as an animal rescuer was profiled in a cover story in “The Mohave Dog” last year. She is charged with a single count of theft over a cat she removed from the home of a Golden Valley woman in April 2011.

Erin Taylor
Miner Staff Reporter


Kristin Freiert knew she was in over her head the first time she was called out to help a woman who by all accounts was hoarding close to 100 cats at her Golden Valley home.

Cats were everywhere, Freiert said. They all looked skinny and sickly. A stack of kittens on the couch couldn't have weighed more than a pound each. At four months old, they should have been at least four times heavier.

Freiert and her husband have rescued hundreds of cats in the last several years. After giving the woman more than $700 worth of food, Freiert was able to convince her to start surrendering some of the cats and have several others fixed.

Freiert thought she was helping the woman. Instead, she faces potential jail time after being charged with theft for failing to return one of the cats she maintains the owner refused to accept.

"This is ridiculous. I need another cat like a hole in the head," Freiert said.

The case made it all the way to a trial set for last Wednesday. But things got even more convoluted after the judge declared a mistrial immediately after opening statements following a last-minute special action by the prosecutor and allegations of juror tampering.

"This is getting out of control at an extremely rapid pace," said a seemingly exasperated Judge John Taylor at the end of Wednesday's proceedings.

Freiert said she is frustrated that her good deed has turned into a year and a half of stress and legal wrangling.

"I thought this would all go away months ago," she said.



A cat named Denni

Freiert moved to Kingman from Georgia in 2006. Since arriving in Mohave County, she and her husband, Jerry Burch, estimate they've rescued 2,500 cats - and a handful of dogs.

She currently works as the marketing manager of the Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic on Northern Avenue. She believes that spaying and neutering animals is the answer to the area's pet overpopulation problem and has worked with a number of local rescue groups to provide the procedures to low-income residents. Her reputation earned her a cover story in the now-defunct "The Mohave Dog" publication and her name was often given to those looking for help.

That's how Freiert came to be recommended to a Golden Valley woman, who in March of 2011 found herself overwhelmed with what prosecutors acknowledge was anywhere from 50 to 100 cats.

The woman is not being identified by the Miner because she has not been charged with a crime.

Freiert and Burch at first assisted the woman by providing food for the animals and removed several kittens from the home, kittens that Freiert described as sickly and malnourished. She also noticed during the home visits that several other cats appeared to be pregnant.

Freiert said she believed the woman to be a hoarder and that the free food wasn't addressing the real issue.

"If you go into a home to help, you have to solve the problem, and that's the breeding," she said.

The woman agreed to purchase several Spay and Neuter Incentive Program (SNIP) certificates to have the procedures done on some of her animals.

Freiert, with the woman's permission, took a total of nine cats from the home in early April. Six of the cats were to be surrendered for adoption. The other three - Mama One, Mama Two and Denni - were to be spayed through the SNIP program.

According to the Mohave County Sheriff's report in the case, written by Animal Control Officer Sgt. Barbara Larsen, "Freiert showed great interest in Denni and commented on how attractive Denni was and asked questions about Denni."

Freiert said that's because the woman's adult son was putting multiple cats into the carriers she brought. If she asked any questions about Denni, she said it was to make sure she had the cats properly identified.

She is incredulous at the implication that she wanted the cat for herself, a contention her public defender highlighted in his opening statements.

"This case makes no sense," said Jacobo Chavez. "She has access to thousands of cats every year. Why would she steal (this woman's) cat?"

Freiert said she ended up spaying only two of the three cats when one of the surrenders was found to be pregnant and considered a better candidate for the SNIP certificate. But Freiert says all three cats were with her a week later when she met the woman in the parking lot of a local veterinarian office where the woman was having more cats fixed. The woman accepted the first two cats, but refused to accept the cat purported to be Denni, saying it wasn't "fluffy" enough, according to Freiert.

There is confusion as to whether the woman was commenting on a change in the cat's appearance following a week in Freiert's care, or was referencing another cat in the home named "Fluffy," who Freiert said could have mistakenly been put in the carrier in place of Denni when originally removed from the home.

Chavez said it's understandable that an elderly woman would be confused by cats that all looked the same. Prosecutor Mike Powell admits that because of inbreeding, the cats were all shades of black and gray. But Powell said the woman hand fed Denni as a kitten and recognized the cat by her front legs, which are noticeably shorter than her hind legs.

Denni was also named after the woman's late husband, and that connection made the cat even more recognizable to her owner, Powell said.

"This cat has incredible sentimental value to her," he said. "It is a member of the family."

Freiert said communication between the two ceased until June, when Freiert was contacted by the woman's neighbor, who said the cat problem was even more out of control.

"They were nothing but walking skeletons," the neighbor told the Miner.



Animal Control steps in

Freiert went out to the home in late May for a wellness check, but said she was wary of dealing with the woman again, so she contacted Erin Kenyon with the Western Arizona Humane Society.

"I didn't want to be involved anymore," Freiert said. "It was nothing but drama and chaos every time I dealt with (the woman) and (her son)."

Animal Control's report makes no mention of who initially contacted the Humane Society but says the agency was called in June to help reduce the number of cats in the Golden Valley woman's home.

That's when the woman told the Humane Society about the situation involving Denni.

The Humane Society, in turn, contacted Animal Control.

Sgt. Larsen contacted Freiert at her home June 16. Freiert said she was cited after telling Larsen the issue was a civil matter and that she wanted to consult a lawyer.

Larsen's report acknowledges this request, but says the citation was issued after Freiert refused to cooperate with Larsen's requests. Freiert was criminally cited for a single charge of theft.

Freiert's attorney says it was the request for a lawyer that led to Larsen issuing the "vindictive" citation.

"She was found in contempt of cop," Chavez said during his statements to the jury.

Humane Society operations manager Erin Kenyon did not return messages seeking comment.



Mistrial won't stop prosecution

Around 45 potential jurors and a dozen witnesses were summoned to the courthouse last Wednesday morning for the start of the trial. Six jurors and one alternate were chosen and reconvened after lunch to hear opening statements in the case.

Before jury selection that morning, Powell filed a special motion challenging one of the judge's instructions to the jury. That motion was granted, but the fax didn't reach the Justice Court until after the end of opening statements. Because the jury had already been empaneled, double jeopardy was now attached and Freiert couldn't be retried. The jury was sent out of the courtroom while lawyers on both sides debated whether to dismiss the case outright or delay it to a date at least several weeks down the road.

After several minutes of back and forth, the court bailiff entered the courtroom and said he had just been approached by one of the jurors, who said another juror, Freiert's husband and one of her witnesses were out in the hallway talking about animals.

Communication between jurors and those involved with a case is strictly prohibited. It was at that time Taylor took the decision out of the lawyers' hands and issued a mistrial.

Powell said after the mistrial was declared that the case will go forward. He described Freiert as "zealous" and "obsessive" in his statements to the jury.

"I do believe that there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction," he said.

Freiert, if convicted, faces a fine of up to $2,500 and six months in jail. Powell said that was the maximum sentence under the statute but that Freiert's sentence would likely be far less severe.

Freiert previously rejected a plea offer in which she would have been fined $300 and forced to give up the cat.

The cat in question is still with Freiert under the advice of her attorney. She plays with Freiert's other cats and is said to have made a complete turnaround from when she was removed from the Golden Valley home more than a year ago.

"She is a sweetie pie," she said. "Her coat is so shiny and soft."

Freiert said she intends to give the cat to a no-kill agency that can place her with a home after the case is over.

"She deserves a chance to be one-on-one with a family who will love her," Freiert said.

Powell said the Golden Valley woman has surrendered all but five of her cats. Most were put up for adoption.

"If you adopted a cat through one of the adoption programs at Petco or PetSmart in the last year, you probably have one of (this woman's) cats," he said.

ICT - Trotters RV
Related Stories:
• Kingman jury immune to snatched cat fever, acquits woman
• Cat theft trial set: 'I can't believe this is still going on,' says accused


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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2012
Article comment by: Jon mullinix

How ridiculous that this would go to court, does the tax payers have this much money to waste? on a worthless trial? no wonder people try to get out of jury duty. the lady has way too many cats to count , maybe Kingman also has too many un-needed judges if this is how to serve justice. what a farce.......

Posted: Monday, October 22, 2012
Article comment by: I know Kristen and her hubby

I've known this couple for some years now. It is not above them to go waaaay out of their way to help an animal. They have used their own personal vehicle and gas money to come out and collect goods for yard sales to help people with animals who need it and to help the animals themselves. This case is an atrosity. What about ticketing or arresting this woman for hoarding?? Kristen is a nice person and only wants what's best for the animals. Get real People...like she needs another cat!!

Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Article comment by: kenna dyer

This whole thing is absolutely rediculous. Ive known Kristin for over 5 years and have adopted my cat from her. Shes a kind person and only wants to help the animals in this town. To say she would "steal" a cat is ludicrous. Also, since when is having over 50 cats that you neglect acceptable ? This whole mess seems a lot like a conspiracy to me.

Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Article comment by: What happened to Good Judgement ??

EARTH TO Mohave Co. Prosecutor Mike Powell: Prosecutorial Misconduct & Discretion, Sensible Case Mgmt, Allocation & use of Scarce Judicial Resources. Good Lord, Think about it. WHY R U Wasting Taxpayers $$$ & risking someone's reputation for Frivolous & Foolish Purposes?? Just think it may be Your Own Reputation that you’re Diggin a Hole for too. I hope that news of this Stupid Prosecution Grows to Nationwide Ridicule that such Idiocy truly deserves!!

Oh whatz that I hear ??? Click Click Click, I do believe I Hear People Clicking on their Computers & sharing with Everyone across the Nation.


Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Article comment by: Kristin Freiert (The Cat Lady)

ATTN @ Please Help

Now you had me at "Black Cat" (they are my Favorite Kitties of All)...

You mention about a Black Cat that's hanging around & may be injured...Feel Free to Email me directly so we can talk about the situation a little more to see what 's going on >'.'<

kristinmf@gmail.com


Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Article comment by: Wietse Haak

Are you guys for real?? At what point do we get, when people who dedicate their complete life and money to animal welfare and to help prevent overpopulation, because of ignorant idiots keep breeding and dumping animals, get in trouble because of other peoples stupity? And now you are spending precious taxpayers dollars to get Kristin in trouble. Quit that nonse and spend your time on something useful!

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Article comment by: Jeanne Brooks

Our pets need to be protected from hoarders/abusers never to be allowed to have a pet again. Kristin F. should be thanked for the loving help she gives to helping save cats and kittens, NOT SUED! What kind of justice is this? Our pets cannot speak up or make choices or decisions and they need to be protected. All the cats should have been removed from that hoarders home and she should be in jail. NOT KRISTIN,... Our legal system needs to be challenged if they accept this ridiculous law suit. Cat Theft? Please! Take them all away.

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Article comment by: Gabby B

I think that everyone should remember something. The deputy county attorney does not make the decision who to prosecute. Our county attorney, Matt Smith makes the final decisions.
You may also know that Mr. Matt Smith is, again, running unopposed in this election.
If you want change to the prosecutions... you have to start with the county attorney..
It's time for a change all with all of the good ol' boys and he's one of them.... VOTE HIM OUT!
In regards to the person that said that Barbara Larsen is an Animal control officer... she is not! She belongs to the Sheriff's Office.... now you know why she's in charge of animal control issues.
No.... Erin Kenyon is in control of "animal control"... yea right.. she also works for the Sheriff's Office and, may I remind you, her husband is a deputy.... there's another office that should be challenged!


Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Article comment by: tj denton

i think the lady with the cats should be the one on trial and should probably have to undergo a mental health screening. this is rediculous. this case going all the way to trial probably cost the county 15-20K...absolute stupidity..they should really hire new prosecutors in mohave county!!!

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Article comment by: The Fox Hound

I don't know who is to blame but after reading the Miner for a while it must be Obama's fault.

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Article comment by: Jim Consolato

I think Gabby B. said it best, Only in Mohave County could something as backwards and ridiculous as this happen. This County seems to excel in arresting and prosecuting innocent citizens, and at the same time allow nothing less than criminal behavior of political officials, namely our current BOS, to go unchecked. Living in Mohave County,I sometimes feel I am caught in some space/time warp between Mayberry RFD and the Twilight Zone.

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Article comment by: devious e

this is as usual in mohave county misuse of authority, but it wont change. I thought you had a right to speak your mind as long as it aint disrespecting the officer. There has to be a civil rights violation there. Maybe A.C.L.U. could help with this one.Also all this money spent on something so trivial. makes you wonder.

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: Just Wondering

Where are the charging for this woman regarding animal cruelty? Did anyone else see "a stack of kittens" in this article? What the heck? This is such a waste of time. Yes - lets give this animal back to the lady that wasn't feeding it and killed how many already. Can't we focus on getting the real criminals convicted of more that just the minimum sentence? I will say a prayer tonight that karma kicks all the people invovled in these charges in the you know what and Ms. Freiert can get back to making this town a better place.

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: please help

This is not about this article, but is there a way to get a hold of Kristin Freiert? or can a cat lover help me out? I have a stray black cat that has been hanging around my house he/she is very sweet but it is injured I already have my own pets to worry about I can't afford to take this one to the vet. I don't want to take it to the pound because they will put it down. someone please help!

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: Quick Search

A quick search...

The Mohave County Zoning Ordinance
allows for a maximum of four (4) dogs and
four (4) cats on one (1) parcel without a
permit.

http://www.co.mohave.az.us/ContentPage.aspx?id=124&page=4&cid=368

If this is correct, then the "victim" has committed a crime.



Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: just passin' through .....

after moving from Kingman, I entertained the possibility of at least stopping somewhere for lunch there someday on the way to the Grand Canyon or any other points eastward. Think I'll just grab a couple hot dogs at the AM/PM in Needles or beef jerky in Topock instead.

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: Gabby B

I guess it really is true..... no good deed goes unpunished.... what a shame this lady has to go through this just for trying to help someone!
The unknown "hoarder" should be ashamed of herself!


Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: It's Sickening!

I think our city and county justice systems are sickening. The fact that they would devote all the time and money to prosecute someone who was/is doing the right thing. Then on the other hand they drag thier feet on cases with real criminals doing everything wrong so as not to "violate" the criminals rights. Correct me if I'm wrong but Kingman/Mohave justice systems are Bass Ackwards!

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: Donna Shadow *********************

There's plenty of loose cats in my neighbor hood she can have. They make noise at night. Use my yard as a litterbox and make the dogs bark at night!

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: Jerry Burch

@ What The
Finally, I knew someone from the Prosecutors Office would respond. After all, everybody that is reasonably thinking this thru reaching the "they are doing Great Things for the animals and deserve the benefit of the doubt" are wrong. Talk about obsessed: Thanks for the convuluted point of view What The.
Jerry Burch - Animal Advocate and doing something About it. ARE U?


Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: TRACY FENEIS

This is absolutely ridiculous!! My husband and I have volunteered at many low cost spay/neuter/vaccine events that Kristen has helped put together, her and her husband ONLY want to help control pet overpopulation and reduce sickness in the Mohave County animals. They spend ALOT of their time and money to help not only the animals but the people who own them. The hoarder should be very thankful that she is not the one facing charges as there is no way 50-100 cats in one home can be receiving the medical treatment they need (sounds like they weren't even receiving the food they needed). Hang in there Kristin and Jerry, you have lots of support and you are dedicating yourselves to a worthy cause although it may not seem like it at this time. As for the attorneys and the $ that they have spent on this outrageous case, you should be ashamed!!

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: Karyn Louise

I have met Kristen and know of her unselfish, good-hearted deeds for all animals. It is a shame and a sin that she is being put through this mess. I would say that this is another personal and political attack that seems to be common in this county regarding passionate people who are trying to help and care for the helpless animals. This has got way out of control. A little old confused lady who probably thinks 50% of the cats at her house are “Denni” was probably talked into getting a lawyer. (Gee there might be some money in this to get !) Now the politics come into play and it becomes, not what is true and right, but more the Prosecutor, and others, being "obsessive" in getting a gold star on their report card.
Hang in there Kristen, you have a lot of support behind you !


Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: Kingman Mom

Reading the story this part stands out: " Sgt. Larsen contacted Freiert at her home June 16. Freiert said she was cited after telling Larsen the issue was a civil matter and that she wanted to consult a lawyer...."

Maybe the issue isn't so much about the cat but Freiert's attitude to Sgt. Larsen.

I understand she must be fursterated with the abuse she saw and apparently took from the cat's owner! But as I tell my kids...your attituted can get you in a lot of trouble!

I think Ms. Freiert is doing amazing things protecting the animals - don't get me wrong about that! I think it's wrong to have so many pets and not take care of them & I also think it's a HUGE waste of tax dollars! But...I think Freiert and her husband are in the wrong - with their attitudes and him speaking to a juror. Attitude is everything and it can get you out of trouble or really get you into trouble! It's a shame it had to come down to all of this!


Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: What The

@ Susie Bertram...

WRONG! The whole story is NOT out! This entire article is written from Kristens point of view. Horrible story! Only one side is told. The defendants. Just ask any defendant going into the courthouse, They are all innocent and you will get the story that sheds the best light on they're case. Totally one sided article.


Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
Article comment by: Candace Jonas

@ Jack Dundee

Yuppp, That's a Young & Dumb, just out of Law School County Atty Mike Powell for ya. He doesn't seem to have any Life Experience about what Cases to pursue. I guess he feels the Alleged "Cat Caper" is more important than Rape, Murder, Drug Busts, etc...Cases. He & the other Three County Attys seem to have lots of time on theirs Hands. The Part that Kills me is Powell says he's still not going to let it go. Well Folks, if ya add up the 1.5 yr efforts, Legal Wrangling, All the County Employees Time, and now he's pushing for a Special Filing from the Superior Court....All for a Cat from a Hoarding Situation ?? I would think that Adds up to well over $20-$30K now. Something is Seriously WRONG with this Picture !!

RE: And that TWITT of an AC Officer name Larsen, I heard she was promoted to Lieutenant Larsen. Another fine example of Promoting a Person for Not doing a Good Job of Investigating in the First Place & get rewarded for it !!

Our/My Tax Dollars are NOT being Spent Wisely...And then the County Officials want to keep on Raising Taxes !! I soooo can't wait for the Election in Nov. to Vote these County Officials out of their Positions.



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