ZONETON - A man accused of torturing and killing eight cats in Bullitt and Jefferson counties has entered a guilty plea.
Alex Daniel Phelps, 26, of Shepherdsville, entered the guilty plea on Tuesday morning just minutes before his jury trial was set to begin in Bullitt Circuit Court.
Final sentencing, which is expected to include emotional testimony from owners of several of the victims, is set for Jan. 11 at 10:30 a.m.
Under the plea agreement, Phelps received a five-year sentence on each of the eight Class D felonies. This is the most severe penalty allowed for such an offense.
Assistant commonwealth attorney Mike Ferguson agreed to recommend that all sentences run concurrently for a total of five years in prison. He opposed probation.
In making his guilty plea, Phelps admitted to Circuit Judge Rodney Burress that he committed the acts alleged in November and December 2010.
“I admit it, sir,” Phelps told Burress.
In outlining the facts of the case, Ferguson said it was a truly disgusting situation.
Owners who had to find homes for their cats went on Craigslist. Ferguson said Phelps would search the on-line service and offered to take the cats from the owners, promising a good home.
During the investigation of detectives in Bullitt and Jefferson counties, two sets of bones and six cat bodies were found.
Ferguson said the remains were autopsied by Dr. Barbara Weakley-Jones and they were found to have been tortured and mutilated.
One cat had its eyes removed, another had a tail cut off.
Another cat broke its leg trying to escape.
Ferguson said the animals suffered a “horrible, terrible death.”
A main piece of evidence was a knife found in the defendant’s home. It contained mammal blood.
Ferguson said a big break in the case occurred when a man who gave Phelps two cats which were later found dead sat on Interstate 65 looking for the defendant’s truck. When he saw it, he followed the man to work and then called police.
During a taped interview of over two hours with Louisville Metro Police detectives, Ferguson said the defendant implicated himself in four of the deaths.
He told investigators that he would cut a main artery and the cats went to sleep.
However, Ferguson said the evidence from the medical examiner was quite different. He said the animals suffered through a long and painful death, including bondage and having many cuts to their bodies.
Following the plea agreement, Ferguson said it was a very difficult case, one which was very emotional.
While the owners of the cats understood the plea agreement, he said they were unhappy about the situation. But they agreed that justice had been served.
“They are still very upset and they are very disturbed about the disgusting manner in which the deaths occurred,” said Ferguson, who declined further comment until final sentencing.
Attorney Tom Clay, assisted by Kirsten Daniel, said that he didn’t advise his client to take the plea offer. However, he felt Phelps was capable of making that decision.
Following the agreement, Clay said that some evidentiary issues arose making the plea more acceptable. With a key witness not available, Clay said the defense team’s position had to be reconsidered.
Given the circumstances, Clay said he felt it was best if the matter could be concluded and Phelps be allowed to move forward with his life.
With the time already served, Clay thought Phelps could be eligible for an immediate parole hearing even if probation is denied at final sentencing.
Phelps remains free on bond.