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Tippecanoe County man avoids jail time for role in cat drowning caught on video

Walter Kenneth Baldwin pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to all counts.

Posted: Oct 15, 2019 1:40 PM
Updated: Oct 16, 2019 6:19 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — A Tippecanoe County man will serve no time behind bars for trapping and drowning a cat. 

Walter Kenneth Baldwin pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to all counts. Baldwin is sentenced to six months in community corrections and 1.5 years of suspended supervised probation. Baldwin also owes a $2,500 fine. 

As we previously reported, a video was posted on social media in November 2018 showing a cat trapped inside a cage on the deck of a pond. Baldwin is seen in the video smoking a cigar in his car. The person filming asks Baldwin "You ready?" Baldwin replies, "Go for it." That person then kicked the cage with the cat inside into the water. The video ends by showing the cage falling to the bottom of the pond until it disappeared.

The cat inside the cage was trapped at 52 Mobile Home Estates, a mobile home park owned by Baldwin. The cat in the video was wearing a collar, which the state argued is an assumption that it is domestic, and not feral. 

During Tuesday's hearing News 18 learned a fisherman later recovered the cage with the cat inside long after the incident. The cat was found dead. 

Baldwin had a large group of supporters during Tuesday's trial. Seven people took the stand to defend him. Here's some of the statements they made:

"He's very generous." 

"[Baldwin] is a good person. He's helped out a lot of people over the years."

"You couldn't meet a better person."

"The cat thing is totally out of his character."

"I've never seen him be violent."

"This ain't his character."

Baldwin's attorney also asked if they were aware of the cat issues at 52 Mobile Home Estates. Every person said yes. 

The state argued that although there is a feral cat problem at the mobile home park, Baldwin refused all offers to help. 

Seth Kirkendall, Animal Control Officer at the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office, testified in Tuesday's hearing. He told the courtroom about the first time he met Baldwin. 

Kirkendall met Baldwin at 52 Mobile Home Estates to talk about chickens that were running around the property. While he was there, he said Baldwin asked him for suggestions on how to fix the feral cat problem.

Kirkendall said he and Baldwin were having a great conversation until he explained some options on how to get rid of the cats.

"He then told me to get the (expletive) off his property," Kirkendall explained. "So I left."

Sharon Dull took the stand with a similar story. Dull works with Crystal Creek Kennels and serves on the Tippecanoe County Animal Advisory Board.

Dull said she approached Baldwin at 52 Mobile Home Estates with informational flyers. She offered to help with the feral cat problem, free of charge.

She says Baldwin also told her to "Get the (expletive) off my property." Dull said she left immediately. 

The judge expressed her concerns with the several occasions Baldwin refused any help. 

Baldwin read a letter out loud to the court room, apologizing for his behavior. "I'm sorry," he began. Baldwin went on to explain he specifically wanted to apologize to the juvenile he convinced to drown the cat. "It's inexcusable," he said. 

The judge mentioned, "As a parent, I'd be spittin' mad if [the child involved] was mine." 

The name of the 17-year-old boy who filmed the video will not be released.

Baldwin was charged with five felonies in November last year. Before this, the 70-year-old had no criminal history.

Those charges are:

-Conspiracy to commit torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal

-Conspiracy to commit killing a domestic animal

-Torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal

-Killing a domestic animal

-Contributing to the delinquency of a minor

However, in Tuesday's hearing, the judge dropped two charges of conspiracy to commit torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal and torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal.

As a part of Baldwin's sentence, he cannot possess any animals and is ordered to surrender all firearms within 48 hours. He is also required to undergo a psychological evaluation and go through any recommended counseling.

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