A cat slaughterer in California was sentenced Friday to a maximum jail term of 16 years in jail, but avoided having to register as a sex offender.
Robert Farmer, 26, pleaded guilty in October to 21 felony counts of animal cruelty – including stealing, torturing and dismembering several treasured felines in the south San Jose neighborhood of Cambrian Park. Police say Farmer murdered at least 16 cats, but only four of their remains have been found – two of which were uncovered in trash bins.
The rapid disappearance of the pets in the fall of 2015 caused great anxiety in the northern California community, prompting owners to keep their outdoor felines enclosed inside. Several of the pet owners issued emotional pleas during the court hearing, which was packed with animal rights activists and community locals donning purple ribbons with white cat paws.
Prosecutors and owners of the victimized cats also claimed that Farmer had sexually abused at least one of the cats he killed, but Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sharon Chatman dismissed the argument based on a lack of immediate evidence.
Farmer’s attorney, Wesley Schroeder, contended that his client suffered from a long-running meth addiction which functioned as an “accelerant” to his mental health deterioration, and that the county’s probation officer had suggested a nine-year prison term. However, Chatman did impose the most stringent sentence possible – 16 years behind bars – despite the county’s probation officer recommending only a nine-year term.
Given that Farmer is not required to register as a sex offender, he will serve his sentence – with two years credit for time already served – in county jail rather than federal prison. After release, which could be in as little as four-and-a-half years, Farmer will have to register for probation until the terms of the full 16-year sentence are fulfilled. He will not be allowed to own or care for any animal for 10 years and was given a restriction order to stay away from the Cambrian Park area in addition to undergoing court-ordered psychological treatment.
Farmer was arrested in October after authorities discovered him asleep in his car, with a dead cat in the center console and surrounded by wads of fur. The matter was immediately taken up by scores of activists demanding a harsh sentence for the perpetrator, sparking a widely-circulated petition, frequent calls to the district attorney’s office and the creation of a Facebook group entitled “Justice for our Catz.”
“Finally, today, after almost two years and 15 hearings we got a justice for our babies. Today was very long and emotionally exhausting day. We can’t thank you enough for all your help and support, either by attending court or via electronic communication,” one of the owners of a slain cat, Miriam Petrova, wrote. “You have shown that our pets are not things, but loving family members who have feelings and have a soul and they deserve justice. On their behalf, we want to thank you for being the voices for our voiceless animals.”