Allegedly disturbed boy who abused and killed a cat is let off because he’s a minor

I am revisiting a story I wrote on June 23rd about a boy who tortured and killed a domestic cat in Clinton, Iowa (opens a new window). The boy is Jonathan Trude. He is 12-years-of-age. His parents say that he is mentally disturbed. His father, Richard says he has ADHD, is bipolar, psychotic and a narcissist. We don’t know if these conditions have been diagnosed by qualified practitioners and we don’t know if these conditions cause a boy to want to hurt animals. I don’t see a direct connection. Why should they be an excuse for animal cruelty?

Jonathan Trude

The owner of the cat that he tortured and killed, Skylar Golan, says there is nothing wrong with the boy and he learned his abusive behaviour from his parents.

The question is whether the state can prosecute Jonathan for the crime of animal cruelty under the state’s animal welfare laws (as I understand it: Chapter 717B (Injuries to Animals other than Livestock)).

I am told by Skylar that the police have told her that they won’t prosecute him because of his age and because he ‘went to a psych ward’. In other words because he is below the age of criminal responsibility and mentally ill.

“They [the police] initially said they would press animal cruelty and burglary. And we would have to do assault separate. Then we were told by the court the assault would be included all together. And just yesterday my mom called numerous times and sent emails and finally got a call back from the sherriff saying he would never be taken to court because of his age and that he went to a psych ward…”

Mr and Mrs Trude

Mr and Mrs Trude. Screenshots from video and reformatted.

To confirm: the reason as given by the police is that Jonathan is below the age of criminal responsibility and that he is mentally unfit to be tried.

After a good 30 minutes difficult research (this information was hard to find) I have come to the conclusion that there is no specified age of criminal responsibility in Iowa and therefore the fact he is 12-years-of-age is not a barrier to prosecuting him.

“In Iowa: No statute specifies the youngest age at which a juvenile can be adjudicated delinquent;” (IOWA NJDC National Juvenile Defender Center).

Therefore the police, on my reckoning, have this wrong. As for his mental health. Skylar says he is not mentally ill but simply an unpleasant individual who has in the past abused animals.

My conclusion is that the police don’t want to get involved because they don’t see the crime as sufficiently serious and indeed have blamed Skylar for not looking after her cat properly!

“… they just said “maybe you should keep an eye on your animals and property and it won’t happen..”

Jonathan Trude has been let off as have his parents. Is this right? Perhaps there are complexities with respect to the boy’s mental health which present a barrier to a successful prosecution. But the cat’s owner is clear, she wants some sort of closure and punishment.

The comments discuss a possible civil action. For financial reasons the action would have to be ‘in person’ (without appointing a lawyer) and the court fee would be quite cheap, perhaps around $100. It should be a small claims action. I am a believer is seeking justice. This case does not have closure. There is a boy free to wander around the neighbourhood who allegedly likes to hurt animals. The community is subject to this danger. It should not be dismissed as unmanageable and the cat’s owner should not be seen by the police as contributing to the problem because she has done nothing wrong.

An alternative way forward to seek closure would be to formally ask Jonathan’s parents to pay compensation which could be set at around $1,500 (vet bills, value of cat and emotional distress).

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Allegedly disturbed boy who abused and killed a cat is let off because he’s a minor — 15 Comments

  1. Maybe Ms. Golan needs a PayPal account to raise the monies needed to properly prosecute the juvenile delinquent.

    Many attorneys will take the case and wait until the trial is over for payment. Sometimes the judge will make the losing side pay the court costs including the attorney fees. That would be good in this case.

  2. Can’t they at least put him in a juvenile detention center? Even if only for a short time frame? Don’t let him get through the system now. He should be held accountable for his actions!

    • I agree Robin. I don’t think the reasons given for not dealing with this boy are the real reasons or good reasons. The reason, to me, seems to be police apathy and because ‘it is only a cat’. You know that phrase.

  3. I owned the Pitt pat. The juvenile system told me they did not pursue charges since he was placed in an institution and figured that would be that. In looking for restitution I would have to sue his parents. Can’t get blood from a turnip. It would cost me more for a lawyer then I would ever get. I would have appreciated communication from the police instead of being told for the last few months that we will be notified when court happens. Apparently one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. And no one gets back to the victims. I dont care about the money, I worry about the community, its residents and animals. I’ve been told I have no recourse to keep this child away from our property in the future except for protection order. And to keep an eye on my property if he gets let out. I hope this stays on his record for his lifetime even if he hasn’t been formally charged and he is watched very closely by the powers that be. I could not be assured of that by the county attorney’s office, juvenile department. I believe he is mentally ill and his family is ill equipped to care for him. But that doesn’t erase or excuse his actions

    • Hi, thanks for contributing Shannon. You know a civil action still might be a good idea even if the damages awarded were very small. It would highlight the problem and give you an outlet to express your dismay and anger at what has happened. It may expose some truths and put some blame on the parents if they have wilfully misguided their boy in poor parenting.

      You could commence a civil action in person. You’re allowed to do that. If you want I could try and help you prepare the papers. The only barrier then would be the court fee. I think the fee is $85 (this is an update as I got it wrong earlier).

  4. The cats owner needs to file a complaint though the Attorney General. The child committed a crime and the local police can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.

    • I will be talking to a criminal laywer about this too. We were told all we can due is sue the parents for the 600 vet Bill but we have to pay a laywer

      • Are you sure that you have to appoint a lawyer because you have a right to run a civil action in person? You can sue in the civil courts and run a case for injury to property. A cat is considered ‘property’ under the law as you probably know.

      • This is small claims or magistrate if you are in the US and you do NOT have to hire a lawyer. You can also ask for your court costs which would be the filing fee in this case.
        I done this on behalf of my cat when the police refused to pursue animal abuse charges against the DVM who killed our cat.
        You are your cats voice. I would also pursue this through the AG if local dimwit authorities refuse to act on the victims behalf. You and your cat. Only a DA or a judge can decide if the charges are viable. It’s not up to the police depts.

  5. Perhaps the owner of the cat should launch a civil suit against the parents for letting their untrained child to roam at large and be unsupervised.
    He should be tried in juvenile court where they would order a legal examination of his medical and mental status and would then either remand him into state custody for treatment.
    It doesn’t matter where the cat was when the child ( and future serial killer) killed the cat the fact that he did is a crime.
    It’s also important to know that police and sheriffs are not the judicial system. They are supposed to uphold the law and write unbiased reports and let the county DA decide if the case warrants further prosecution beyond tickets or arrest. This is a travesty and the cat’s owner should start with the state Attorney General and fill out an official complaint form.

    • Nice thoughts. I sense the police have failed here. Perhaps a lack of interest. I think the cat’s owner could sue the boy’s parents in the tort of ‘injury to property’, a US tort. She could apply for damages including damages for emotional distress.

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