State dismisses charges in stolen cat case

February 20, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM


Charges against two women accused of stealing a Hagerstown woman's cat have been dropped.

Star Silva, 43, of Kearneysville, W.Va., and Angela Crawford, 31, of Hagerstown, were charged in December 2005 with misdemeanor theft. Those charges were dismissed Feb. 2 by the State's Attorney's Office in Washington County.

Assistant State's Attorney Michelle Flores said the decision was made after weeks of investigating the claim.

"It does not merit criminal prosecution," Flores said, declining to provide details about the investigation.

Diane Simmons of Hagerstown claimed in documents filed in Washington County District Court that Crawford and Silva took her 7-month-old male cat to Longmeadow Animal Hospital on Dec. 23, 2005. The cat was scheduled to be neutered through a Washington County Humane Society voucher program, she said.The cat, which appears to be orange in a picture provided to The Herald-Mail, was not returned, Simmons said.

Silva, a former Humane Society employee, and Crawford, a former volunteer there, said the cat Simmons claimed the women took has been dead for more than a year.


Crawford said that on Dec. 22, 2005, Esther Simmons - Diane Simmons' mother-in-law - brought three cats to her home that were scheduled to be neutered and spayed the following day at Longmeadow Animal Hospital in Hagerstown. The male cat Crawford took to the animal hospital Dec. 23 is described in an animal hospital document as cream-colored.

A voucher stamped by Longmeadow Animal Hospital shows that Crawford took one male cat and two female cats to the facility.

The orange-striped cat described by Simmons is similar to one described in a Humane Society voucher that Esther Simmons took to Cumberland Valley Veterinary Clinic in January 2005, Silva said.

That cat, Crawford said, died two weeks after the visit to the animal hospital.

Simmons said Thursday that the documents must have been altered and that the photo she provided in January 2006 was of the same cat that underwent surgery at the animal hospital in December 2005.

Simmons' side

Simmons alleged in court documents that Crawford picked up her cat from Esther Simmons' home on Winter Street on Dec. 23 and took it to Longmeadow Animal Hospital.

Simmons said the cat was taken to Crawford's home the night before, but because they were making too much noise, her mother-in-law took the cats back that night.

Crawford claims all three cats stayed with her overnight.

"I always take them overnight," Crawford said. "You have to take the cats' food away before the surgery, and I don't trust anyone else to do that."

The cat was supposed to be returned to Esther Simmons' home after the surgery, Diane Simmons said. Instead of returning the cat, Crawford told Esther Simmons the cat had died during the procedure, Diane Simmons said.

Longmeadow Animal Hospital owner Dr. Tracy Barlup said in January that the cat had not died.

"That's all," Simmons said in an interview Thursday. "They took my cat and did not bring him back to me."

Crawford lived with Esther Simmons for a short time and was once close with Diane Simmons' family, according to both Crawford and Diane Simmons.

"Not anymore," Crawford said Wednesday.

Crawford claims the charges against her were filed due to a family dispute.

Silva said she had never met Diane Simmons, and both she and Crawford were surprised to be charged with theft of a cat.

"I almost think this was just an opportunity to get me in trouble for something," Crawford said.

Silva said she had argued with Esther Simmons at the Humane Society about issues at the facility's food bank.

Humane Society

In January, Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society, said Silva was no longer an employee there and he had not seen Crawford at the shelter in several months.

Both said their relationships with the Humane Society ended for reasons unrelated to this case.

Crawford stopped volunteering after about two years, she said, because of issues she had with some of the shelter's policies.

Silva, who worked full-time as the coordinator of public assistance, was in charge of six programs at the Humane Society at the time of her resignation, she said.

Silva resigned Jan. 3, 2006, according to documents she provided The Herald-Mail. Silva was affiliated with the Humane Society for about five years, she said, first as a volunteer and then as a full-time paid employee.


Flores said charges often are dismissed by the State's Attorney's Office if they do not meet a burden of proof.

Simmons said she was told by the State's Attorney's Office that both parties were being untruthful in their claims.

"That's why I thought you had a court hearing, to determine the truth," she said. "If someone had stolen a TV, you would have taken them to court, but my cat's not worth taking them to court."

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