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Police: Monroe men set fire to family cat

Three Monroe men face felony animal cruelty charges for allegedly dousing a neighbor’s cat in lighter fluid and setting it on fire.

Police have arrested suspects Rico Bennett and Stanislav Nadol and on Tuesday were searching for Clyde Mackey in connection with the crime, which occurred Sunday evening at the Castle Road Apartments in eastern Monroe.

The black cat, named Midnight, had third-degree burns over 30 percent of its body but was expected to make what authorities are calling “a miraculous recovery.”

Police said Bennett, who lives at the apartments, was angry that Midnight and a couple of stray cats in the area were climbing on his car. He asked Nadol and Mackey to catch one of the animals, Monroe police Sgt. Mike Smith said.

“Hey, somebody get me one of those cats, and I’ll burn it,” Smith said a witness recalled one of the suspects saying.

Nadol and Mackey grabbed Midnight and helped Bennett pour lighter fluid all over the cat’s body and set it on fire, police said. Neighbors reported seeing the three suspects laugh as the cat took off running, its fur on fire, police said.

Officers arrived on the scene minutes later, interviewed witnesses and began searching for the animal but couldn’t find Midnight. The suspects denied hurting the cat.

The next day police returned to the apartments with Monroe firefighters and a handheld thermal imaging device to try to determine if the cat had hidden beneath one of the buildings. The device traces heat signatures.

When police couldn’t find Midnight even with the help of the thermal imaging technology, they began to doubt they’d ever find the animal.

But then around 3 a.m. Tuesday, the injured cat showed up on the doorstep of its owner, Audrey Hailey.

“I called him, and he came back to me,” Hailey told Observer news partner WCNC-TV.

Police took Midnight to a local veterinarian, where he is receiving antibiotics to ward off infection and being monitored as his burns heal.

“No matter who did what, all three were in on it together,” Police Chief Debra Duncan told WCNC-TV. “They all three did it, so in my opinion, all three deserve the same punishment.”

WCNC-TV contributed

Steele: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @steelecs
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