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Unicoi County residents seeking 'Justice for Warrior'

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 7, 2018 at 12:29 AM

ERWIN — Unicoi County residents outraged by the death of a kitten that authorities believe was buried alive are campaigning for the maximum penalty for a man charged in the incident.

Johnny Mack Rogers, 29, 131 Pine Crest Road, was issued a felony cruelty to animals citation based on a criminal complaint filed by Unicoi County Animal Shelter Director Kevin King.

King told Sgt. Paul Osborne of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department that at approximately 11 a.m. on June 22 a male and female brought the 6-week-old kitten to the animal shelter and told him that Rogers had buried it alive at his residence after a woman at the home stepped on it.

King reported the female provided him photos of the two rescuing the kitten from a shallow grave and advised him that both Rogers and the woman who stepped on the kitten were drunk at the time of the incident.

King said the kitten was covered in dirt and blood, constantly gasping for air and barely alive when they arrived at the animal shelter, and he immediately took it to Robinson’s Animal Hospital on Peoples Street in Johnson City.

According to King, the staff at Robinson’s worked to clear the animal’s airways for more than hour and also intubated the kitten to administer IV fluids. He said the animal hospital staff advised him before he left the kitten’s chance of survival was slim, and that if it survived, it would probably suffer major internal injuries.

Osborne reported the director of the animal hospital called King while he was taking King’s criminal complaint on Rogers and advised King the kitten had died.

Rogers was served with a criminal summons charging him with one felony count of aggravated animal cruelty on June 28.

He was originally scheduled to face the charge in Unicoi County Sessions Court on July 19, but the court date was reset for Sept. 20. Rogers has advised the court he will hire an attorney.

King said Friday he and his staff named the male kitten Warrior and he posted its story on social media using the hashtag #JusticeForWarrior on the same day Rogers was served with the criminal summons.

“You all asked and demanded something be done, and I told you I’d make sure he was held accountable,” King wrote in a post shared on the Unicoi County Animal Shelter Facebook page.

“That is going to happen. Our court date is September 20. He is going to be charged with Aggravated Animal Cruelty. That is a felony. Mark your calendars. I want hundreds of people there. We need to show that this is not acceptable behavior in our community and in society.”

While the post has generated dozens of comments from people calling for the maximum penalty for Rogers, King said Friday he could not comment further other than to say, based on what he has been told, there will be many people in court on Warrior’s behalf on Sept. 20.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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