|Matthew R. Fillman and William Casey George||cats stabbed, 3 killed||Richland Township, PA Bucks County||October 8, 2002|
Fillman and George, both age 20 have criminal pasts. They have been charged with killing 2 cats and maiming 8 others as part of a drunken and destructive night in northern Bucks County.
Sometime between dusk and dawn on 10/8 and 10/9, Fillman of 2235 Rowland Lane, Springfield Township and George of 1543 California Rd. in Richland threw a concrete block through the windshield of an unattended Quakertown police car; shattered 3 police car windows with BB shots; eluded police officers who chased their car; shot out 2 windows of the Richland Township police station with BB guns. Before the night was over the 2 had attacked and disemboweled 3 cats, 2 of which died and stabbed 7 others. Fillman reported the getaway car, his fathers car, as stolen.
The pair bragged about the attack. Through a tip a probable cause affidavit was filed which stated that James Kafka told police that on 10/8 he and George were in a band that played at a tavern on California Rd. until 11pm and that George agreed to meet him later but did not. On 10/12 George went to Kafka's house and related everything about the night of 10/8,9.
George told Kafka that he and Fillman were drunk and walking in the woods when they came across the cats. George said he and Fillman messed up some cats, and that he used a knife on them.
During the night of the attack on the cats, Toni Marina, the cats' owner, said her dog "started barking around 10:30pm but she thought nothing of it. The next morning she discovered her cat named Roddi on the lawn, dead. Thinking it was the work of a fox, she left for an appointment in Doylestown. When she returned in the afternoon, she found the Chloe dead. 4 other cats - Chipper, Digger, Scooter and Reds had suffered multiple stab wound. 4 other cats, Clone, Lucky, Fluffy and Cookie, were missing at the time but were eventually found or returned home. Drifter, an all-black cat was the only one that was not injured. Marina speculates that her dark fur helped her hide from the perpetrators.
The cat that survived the disembowelment, required 6 operations. Marina, age 67 is retired and works part time on weekends at the Fonthill Museum. Besides the cats, which numbered 17 before the attack, she keeps 3 horses, 2 sheep and a dog on the 22 acre farm. Marina spent $6000 on caring for the wounded cats. The SPCA has received nearly $3,000 in donations from people outraged about the attack.
Since the attack the cats have become very skittish around people and even have trouble being around Marina. Chipper hides most of the time except at dinnertime. Marina has installed more lighting around the cats cabin.
A criminal complaint was filed before District Justice C. Robert Roth, charging George and Fillman with 3 felonies, burglary, criminal trespass and criminal conspiracy. Fillman was also charged with 4 misdemeanors including animal cruelty, George with 4.
On 11/13, Fillman turned himself in. He was arraigned on charges of burglary, criminal trespass, criminal conspiracy, cruelty to animals, poses sing instruments of crime, criminal mischief, fleeing and attempting to elude police and filing false reports to law enforcement authorities. Justice Roth set bail at $75,000 for Fillman and set a preliminary hearing date for November 22, remanding Fillman to the Bucks County Prison in Doylestown for violating his probation for a previous crime. George did not appear in court so now there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
On 11/15, George turned himself in at the Quakertown magisterial office. Justice Roth arraigned George and remanded him to Bucks County Prison under $75,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is set for December 10th.
Each cruelty charge has a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment.
After several delays the trial of the Fillman and George began. Their attorneys argued that they should each be tried separately but Judge David Heckler said there would be 1 trial.
The attorneys also argued that the forensic study regarding the cat fur found in Fillman's father's car should not be admissible. The evidence indicated the presence of feline tissue in the car and it was not from Fillman's cat. Judge Heckler again denied the request, but gave the 2 attorneys about 20 minutes to question Katherine Cross, a forensic DNA analyst for National Medical Services of Willow Grove, Montgomery County, the firm that analyzed the tissue sample.
Judge Heckler ordered James Kafka, age 21, to return to the county courthouse to be cross-examined on his statement to police. Kafka had previously told police that George confessed that he "messed up some cats" but Kafka was ordered off the stand when he claimed he could not remember making the statement.
A girl who attended a party with George 4 days after the attack testified that George talked about the attack. Jennifer Dilts, age 18, said George showed her and other partygoers a large knife and bragged about stabbing the felines Dilts, of Quakertown, said George predicted the crime would make him famous. "He told me he'll probably be on the news because there was a cat killing and he was part of it," she said.
According to the examination and necropsy done by Dr. Rosemary Newton at the Quakertown Veterinary Clinic, the cats were killed and injured with a knife or some sort of cutting instrument. Roddi had at least 8 stabbed wounds, 5 of which passed clearly through his chest. Chloe had 4 stab wound and was completely disemboweled. Dr. Newton also testified that Chloe had a bad leg and never would have been able to escape her attackers.
Defense attorneys for Fillman & George rested their cases after putting only two witnesses on the stand.
George and Fillman did not testify. Fillman's mother, Karen, testified briefly that her son did not have any blood or cat scratches on him when he came home in the early hours of Oct. 9, the morning after police claim he attacked the cats.
And William George, testified that his son reacted with genuine surprise when he showed him a newspaper article about the cat attack. Under cross-examination, however, the elder George admitted that he didn't know where his son was that night.
Before the prosecution rested its case, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Buck put forensic scientist Lawrence Presley on the stand. Presley, a former FBI special agent, testified that cat fur and tissue were found inside Fillman's car. Some of the hair was brown and gray, consistent with the fur of some of the cats that were attacked. But since there is no DNA test for cats that is accepted in court, police cannot prove that the fur in the car matched any of the victims.
Fillman's attorney, Wallace Bateman, said the fur finding proved nothing since Fillman's family has three cats. Bateman also noted that his client was questioned by police hours after the alleged slayings and didn't have any blood or cat scratches, proving he wasn't in the cabin during the violent attack. "It's hard to believe these cats wouldn't have retaliated or defended themselves," he said.
In his closing argument, George's lawyer, Richard Wasserbly, told the jury that the witnesses who claimed George bragged about the cat slaying at a party were not credible, and suggested that people who were seen riding an all-terrain vehicle on Marina's property were actually the cat killers. Wasserbly urged the jury to remain objective, despite the emotional nature of the case.
"It's a terrible, terrible thing that happened to those cats. It arouses a sense of revulsion in us. Because we are so upset ... we just want to reach out and punish someone."
Buck told the jury that the evidence clearly points to George and Fillman. She said the people who heard George brag about the cat slayings were credible and dismissed the defense's suggestion that he was just trying to impress girls at a party by claiming credit for the killings. "Who says something like that?" she asked the jury incredulously.
Both Fillman and George are being held in the county prison due to parole violations stemming from prior convictions.
The Jury deliberated for 5 hours and found both Fillman and George guilty of all charges. The 2 were returned to Bucks County prison. Sentencing was deferred pending a psychiatric evaluation. Fillman was also found guilty of fleeing police and giving a false report to police. George and Fillman face up to 20 years in jail for the crime spree. They also face the possibility of $10,000 in fines - $1000 for each cat, under a recently passed law which strengthened the penalty for cruelty to animals.
Saying he wanted to impose a sentence that would send the message that "society will not tolerate your conduct," a Bucks County judge sentenced one of two men convicted of stabbing 10 cats, killing two, to 26 months to six years in state prison.
On Thursday, Judge David Heckler sentenced George, now 21, to 14 to 48 months for burglary and 12 to 24 months for 10 counts of animal cruelty. The sentences are to run consecutively.
Heckler postponed the sentencing of Matthew Fillman , 21, of Springfield Township. The delay stems from a psychological evaluation both men underwent after a jury found them guilty June 27.
During his evaluation, Fillman apparently admitted he was the one who committed the bulk of the animal cruelty acts on the night of Oct. 8. Fillman's attorney, Wallace Bateman, confirmed this, but would not describe the details of his admission. "I think the judge was impressed with his candor [during the evaluation]," Bateman said. "But [the confession] raises it to a different level, so it's a wash. I think he wants to try and see what types of programs are available before he sentences him."
George was also given five years' probation for criminal conspiracy charges, to be served when he is released from prison. He was ordered to pay $4,429 in restitution.
Heckler cited George's criminal record, which includes convictions for aggravated assault, simple assault, drunken driving and hit and run, as reason for the stiff sentence in a state prison. "You had the benefit of a couple of trips to Bucks County Prison and it didn't seem to make an impression," Heckler said.
Heckler told Fillman he hoped to come up with a sentence "fashioned in such a way for the greatest chance for you to ultimately forge a productive life." This sentence, he warned, "will be at least as substantial as Mr. George's sentence," but will include some sort of structured psychological treatment while he is incarcerated. Heckler said Fillman's admission that he committed most of the carnage on the cats "is an indication of the potential for violence toward other human beings."
Fillman's criminal record includes convictions for burglary and drug charges.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Buck was pleased with the sentence George received. "We thought it was very appropriate given the savage nature of the crime," she said. "He seems to act violently without any thought to the consequences."
Richard Wasserbly, who represented George, said: "I wanted an acquittal, but other than that, the sentence was appropriate."
Before he was sentenced, George told Heckler: "I want to say I'm sorry, I feel bad for Mrs. Marina. I wish the whole night never happened."
"I'm sure you do," Heckler responded.
George said that all he did was open the door of the cats' shed and step inside. He said he didn't injure any of the cats.
"I don't believe his story, that he didn't have much involvement," Marina said. "I'm glad he got a prison sentence, a real bona fide sentence."
When Heckler asked why he and Fillman committed the crimes, George answered "I was drinking it was some kind of rush that we did something."
Heckler called the night of Oct. 8 a "perfect storm." "Recognizing you both have a low threshold for resisting any screwy impulse for what comes along it wouldn't have happened if you didn't come together."
Dena George described her son as a loving brother and child and told Heckler he has been having problems getting over the death of his older brother, Matt, who died in a motorcycle accident three years ago. She said her son loves music and would practice his guitar every day -- until he was sent to prison. "I have not been able to hug him or touch him in nearly a year," she said.
Fillman will serve his jail sentence in a state prison that has an intensive mental health treatment program. He wielded the knife during an attack that left 10 cats stabbed, two fatally.
Fillman was less contrite outside the courtroom than he had been inside. Walking through a courthouse hallway in handcuffs, Fillman, one of two Upper Bucks men convicted in June of stabbing 10 cats, said "Yeah, I'm sorry. I guess."
Toni Marina, the Richland Township woman who owned the cats and discovered their dead and mutilated bodies the morning after the attack, said she wasn't surprised by Fillman's seemingly sarcastic comment. "I guess I would expect something like that from him because he has no ability to show remorse. He's going to have a long time to think about what he's done and hopefully he'll get the help he needs," she said.
Fillman was sentenced to 26 months to six years in a state prison plus 10 years of probation.
Prosecutors say it was Fillman who wielded the knife when he and George broke into the cat's shelter last Oct. 9.
Before handing down the sentence, Heckler warned Fillman that his future will be filled with difficult choices, and urged him to choose the right path in life from now on.
Anne Irwin, executive director of the SPCA, said she was pleased with the sentence. She had lobbied legislators to seek psychological evaluations of defendants in cases of animal cruelty. "I think the sentence was appropriate and shows that the justice system really works," she said.
Marina said her surviving cats are doing well, including "Chipper," who underwent six surgeries and nearly bled to death from his stab wounds.
"He's finally starting to trust me again. He's really cute, always biting my toes, which is a long way from where he was a year ago."
Fillman's lawyer, Wallace Bateman, called the sentence fair. "Is it a stiff sentence? Sure it is. But he's going to get the treatment he needs."
Fillman will serve his jail term in a state prison that has an intensive mental health treatment program. He was ordered to pay $2,165 in restitution, which was his half of the cat's medical bills, investigative testing costs and reimbursement to the owners of several cars he and George vandalized the night of the cat killings. Fillman will be eligible for parole in 2006.
Fillman, now age 25, plead guilty before Judge Theodore Fritsch to trying to break into St. Michael's Church on E. Church St. in Perkasie in November 2006.
Fillman was sentenced to 23 months in county prison for trespassing, conspiracy to trespass and loitering. He also ordered Fillman -- who since his latest arrest has been in Houtzdale State Prison, a medium security prison in Clearfield County -- to undergo an evaluation for alcohol dependency.
Fillman was arrested in November, according to court documents, after a member of the church called Perkasie police to report that someone appeared to be trying to gain entrance to the church late at night. An officer responded to the scene, where he heard voices and saw three people flee into the nearby woods. Eventually police tracked down Fillman, his wife, Marina, who was pregnant, and Matthew Schwartz.
Marina Fillman told police she went along as lookout while her husband and Schwartz planned to rob the church.
Schwartz, 25, of Sellersville, was sentenced to three years' probation in August, according to state docket entries.
Marina Fillman, 21, of Philadelphia, was assigned for two years to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for nonviolent, first-time offenders and ordered to undergo parenting classes and perform community service.
Prison records confirm that Matthew R. Fillman DOB 4/14/82 is in the Houtzdale State Prison. His inmate # is FN5753.
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