Cat killer suspect arrested in Violet as owner mourns $3,500 feline
by Chris Kirkham, The Times-Picayune
Friday May 01, 2009, 9:30 PM
Ever since Raja arrived by airplane from California in late 2007, Linda Authement and her daughter, Jaylin, had marveled at the intelligence of the rare $3,500 Savannah cat they had saved for years to buy. It could fetch, retrieve and even open the door to their Violet home with its paws.
Two weeks ago, the clever feline escaped. And soon after, Linda Authement received a telephone call that sent chills racing down her spine.
It was a neighbor who had seen a reward sign for her missing spotted cat, she said, and he let on that he shot at it while grilling outside the night of April 18.
"He didn't tell me he shot the cat, he said he shot at the cat," Authement recalled. "That's when I frantically told him, 'You didn't shoot the cat? Please tell me you didn't shoot the cat.' And he said, 'I missed.'"
She raced to the home of the caller, Rene Paul Desselle, who lived two doors down from her. He told her he had seen the skinny, leopard-like cat come near him and was worried it was a wild animal that might harm his dog.
So he shot at it, Authement was told.
Authement and her husband searched around Desselle's house for several minutes, after being told the cat might have hidden beneath it. Then Desselle pointed out the cat, dead, in the vacant lot next door. It clearly had a hole in its head.
Fuming and heartbroken, Authement called the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office.
"I could have accepted it if the cat got hit, if something would have happened accidentally to it," Authement said. "But a cat getting shot in the head point blank like that, I can't accept it."
Desselle's wife, Cora Desselle, said Friday he didn't kill the cat. She said their gun was never taken out of its cabinet.
She said he told the Authements that he "shooed" the cat when it came near, which might have sounded like "shoot."
"We didn't shoot the cat. We don't hurt animals," she said.
Nonetheless, Rene Desselle, 50, was booked Monday with a felony, aggravated cruelty to an animal, and illegal discharge of a weapon. He has since been released on a $6,000 bond.
Linda and Jaylin Authement said they had been saving up for years to buy Raja from breeders in California after spotting a Savannah in Cat Fancy magazine. Linda Authement said they paid $3,500 for the cat, plus airfare for it to be shipped to Louis Armstrong International Airport.
"That cat didn't have a claw or a mean bone in his body," said Linda Authement, whose animal-loving household also includes three other cats, three golden retrievers, two tortoises and a cockatiel. "The cat slept with us in the bed. The cat was part of the family.
"We can get another, but it'll never be the same. Nor will we be able to afford a cat that cost that much ever again."
Chris Kirkham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3321.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org