LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A Doña Ana man accused earlier this year of force-feeding a cat methamphetamine has now been charged with extortion for allegedly demanding money from his girlfriend's mother in exchange for returning a stolen kitten.
Aaron Spaulding's girlfriend, Katrina Soto, is also implicated in the alleged extortion attempt on Aug. 14.
While investigating allegations of domestic abuse in June, police learned from Soto that Spaulding was possibly neglecting his two pets - a pregnant pitbull who hadn't been fed in four days, and a domestic shorthair cat named Mac.
According to court documents, Soto told officers that Spaulding consistently abused the cat by squeezing it until it cried, strangling it repeatedly and force-feeding it methamphetamine.
After the cat tested positive for drugs, it was removed from the home via district court order. Police say the cat was ultimately adopted into a caring home.
Spaulding was charged with animal cruelty; as well as false imprisonment, two counts of battery against a household member and interference with communications related to the domestic incident.
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Previous to Mac getting removed from the couple's home, Soto allegedly took a second cat, a female named Church, from the home she shared with Spaulding because she was concerned about the animal abuse, court documents state.
Soto brought Church to her mother's home. There, Church gave birth to a litter of kittens, one of which was gray and white and looked like Mac, court documents state.
On Aug. 14, Spaulding and Soto visited Soto's mother's home and asked for ride to their house. During the ride home, court documents state the couple demanded Soto's mother give them money, and told her they had something of hers.
That's when Spaulding allegedly pulled the small gray and white kitten from his backpack. Court documents state Soto's mother feared for the kitten's life, in part because of how he was holding the kitten by its neck.
Later that night, Soto's mother and her two granddaughters called authorities for assistance and then returned to Spaulding's house to retrieve the kitten.
Back at Spaulding's house, Soto's daughter confronted him about the kitten. Court documents state Spaulding responded by shoving her and spitting in her face before locking himself into the house.
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When police arrived on scene, Soto and Spaulding refused to come out of their house. A search warrant was obtained, court documents state, and police found the kitten underneath a sink in the home.
Spaulding and Soto were arrested Aug. 23, for the alleged incident. Spaulding, 47, is charged with battery and extortion. Soto, 43, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit extortion.
Both Spaulding and Soto remain incarcerated at the Doña Ana County Detention Center.
Follow Bethany Freudenthal on Twitter @bethanyfreuden1.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Man accused of using kitten in extortion attempt, court docs show