Not guilty plea set in animal killing
JANESVILLE A Rock County man accused of fatally shooting two cats that his ex-wife wanted in their divorce stood mute Monday to a felony charge of mistreatment of animals.
Steven F. Wehler, 57, whose last address is listed as an Afton post office box, appeared in Rock County Court and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer entered a not guilty plea for Wehler and ordered him released on a signature bond.
According to the criminal complaint:
Wehler's ex-wife, Laury, filed for divorce in January 2009. The two remained living together until June 2009.
She told a sheriff's deputy she was taking care of the cats in the couple's home. She wanted the cats in the divorce settlement.
Laury went to Missouri in mid-June 2009 to stay with a friend. When Laury returned, she asked for the cats.
Her ex-husband told her he had shot the cats. She said her ex-husband admitted under oath that he killed the cats and buried them in a compost pile.
A deputy then questioned Steven, who told the deputy he was court-ordered to pay $150 a week to buy food for the house. He said Laury refused to buy groceries or cat food.
He told the deputy he was tired of the cats keeping him awake. He said he was unable to keep up with bills.
"One cat would sit on the porch on a chair and whine continually, wanting in the house," Steven told a sheriff's deputy. "The second cat would sit on the porch roof and scratch the window screen, trying to get into the home."
Laury didn't report the killings until March 20. She told the deputy she was afraid to report the incident because of her home environment.
The couple's divorce was final in December 2009.
If convicted, Steven faces a maximum three years and six months in prison and a $10,000 fine. His trial date has not been scheduled.