A Murfreesboro family is devastated over the loss of their pet, which was killed because a neighbor was allegedly upset the cat had used her children's backyard sandbox as a litter box.
On Thursday, Donna Croney's husband arrived home to find one of the family's cats, Carley, bleeding.
"The vet said it was a .17 pellet gun," Croney said.
A pellet from the gun severely damaged the cat's liver. The injuries were so serious, the animal had to be humanely put down.
"It just hurts," Croney said. "She was my husband's favorite pet, and he's devastated."
Croney's neighbor, Katherine Duke, admitted to police she shot the cat because it kept using her children's sand box as a litter box.
Croney says this all could have been prevented if Duke would have simply come over and told her that her cat was causing a problem.
"They never once mentioned that they had an issue with Carley using the sandbox," Croney said.
Duke is a 4th grade teacher at Wilson Elementary School, where school officials said she has been on medical leave since November and was expected to be off the rest of the school year.
Now, Duke is charged with aggravated animal cruelty.
"It doesn't matter what your profession is, nobody should resort to shooting a cat with a pellet gun to keep it out of your yard and children's sandbox. First of all, it's cruel to the animal. Mrs. Duke should have known better," said Murfreesboro police spokesman Sgt. Kyle Evans.
As the Croney family grieves the loss, their other cat, Oprah, is grieving, too.
"She's looking for her now. They were buddies. They were my girls," Croney said.
Croney says only time will help them heal.
"She made a bad choice. She made a bad decision. She may have been frustrated with my cat using her sandbox, and I understand that," she said. "I'll have to forgive her at some point."
Channel 4 News reached out to Duke to get her side of the story, but she has not returned our calls.
Rutherford County School District employees are required to report an arrest within 72 hours. They said Duke notified the school district Friday about the aggravated animal cruelty charge.
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