FORT WAYNE — A 22-year-old Fort Wayne man admitted Thursday to torturing a kitten.
Matthew Jerome, of the 6000 block of Yellowstone Drive, pleaded guilty in Allen Superior Court to two felony counts of cruelty to an animal and one misdemeanor charge of cruelty to an animal.
If a judge accepts his plea, Jerome will be given a three-year prison sentence. One year will be served in prison or on work release. Two years will be suspended, and Jerome will spend one year on probation, according to court documents.
He will be prohibited from owning or caring for “any bird, animal or pet,” or living where pets or livestock are kept, for the duration of the two-year suspended portion of his sentence.
Jerome was charged with the crimes in August, accused of abusing Sparkle, a kitten police believe was dropped into a fire.
A neighbor heard the kitten crying and found her in the backyard of a home in the 4500 block of Foxgrove Avenue. The neighbor took the kitten to Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control. The kitten’s tail fur was singed, she had no facial whiskers, and her paws were burned, according to court documents.
The cat belonged to Jerome’s girlfriend, and she told investigators he didn’t want the cat and often complained about her presence.
When he was questioned by investigators, Jerome said he “could have burned the kitten’s whiskers while flicking his lighter” and “that he may have ‘bumped’ the kitten into the fire,” according to court documents.
An animal cruelty expert said the kitten’s paws were burned in a way that was more consistent with having been dropped into a fire, and that the appearance of the burns suggested it was done on purpose, according to court documents.
In October, Sparkle was adopted by a Fort Wayne woman, one of a dozen people who sought to take the kitten into their home. Lynne Ticen was selected by a lottery after her application was approved.
Sparkle’s burns have healed and her whiskers have grown back.
Jerome will be sentenced in January.