A Manchester Township man has avoided prison for badly beating his mother's cat with a baseball bat and a 2-by-4 earlier this year.
Christian Lawrence Banks, 20, of Zoar Avenue, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty.
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, he was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to undergo a second mental-health evaluation and comply with treatment recommendations, according to court records.
Banks will spend 90 days on house arrest for a second case in which he also pleaded guilty Wednesday. He was sentenced to two years of intensive probation, with the first three months on house arrest, for stealing from a parked vehicle in August 2011, records state.
The gray and white cat, named Baby, belonged to Banks' mother, Jennifer Storm, with whom Banks lives. The attack happened April 11 in Storm's basement, police said.
What happened: Banks beat Baby in the head with an aluminum baseball bat and a wooden 2-by-4, then fled the house before officers arrived, according to court documents.
Baby's injuries included severe head trauma, a broken jaw and a badly damaged eye, according to Northern York County Regional Police.
Banks maintains he hit the cat in self-defense after it scratched his chin, but his mother told officers she saw no injuries on his face that day, documents state.
Deputy prosecutor Jeff Rigby called the self-defense claim ludicrous.
Baby survived his head wounds, but died at the York County SPCA shelter on May 19, according to SPCA Executive Director Melissa Smith. It's suspected Baby died from a blood clot caused by his injuries, she said.
'Very sick': Public defender Rebecca Coy, who represented Banks, said it's clear Banks was "very sick" at the time of the attack, a fact not disputed by Rigby.
"He was diagnosed as schizophrenic," the prosecutor said. "The doctor had a feeling this was some kind of psychotic break."
Rigby said Banks' serious mental-health issues factored into the prosecution's decision not to seek prison time.
"We wanted to focus more on mental-health treatment to keep this from happening again," he said.
As part of his probation, Banks is required to submit to treatment recommendations determined by his doctor, the prosecutor said, and failing to do so could land him in prison.
'Horrific': Rigby called the attack on Baby "unquestionably horrific."
"It's certainly very disturbing and something we hate to see ever happen," he said.
Smith said she supports Banks' getting treatment in the hopes of avoiding another violent outburst.
"But it is imperative that animal cruelty is taken seriously in our county," she said. "This type of violence toward animals is indicative of a bigger problem."
Studies have shown people who commit violent acts on other people often began by being violent toward animals, she said.
"I do feel that given the violent nature of this act ... a harsher penalty would be appropriate," Smith said. "There needs to be a message sent that these types of violent acts won't be tolerated."
Difficult loss: Baby made remarkable progress during the month he spent recovering at the SPCA shelter, according to Smith, so it was quite a blow when he suddenly died.
"We all became very attached to him here," she said. "We just really loved him a lot."
Baby was cremated, and his ashes have a place of honor in the shelter's veterinary wing, Smith said.