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Florida woman fatally poisoned neighbor’s cats, dog: Cops

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Tamesha Knighten of Lakeland, Florida, was arrested after she fatally poisoned a neighbor’s two cats and pregnant Chihuahua named Daisy, right, because she was upset they kept coming in their yard, cops say. She’s facing animal cruelty charges. (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

A Florida woman is facing charges after she poisoned her neighbor’s two cats and dog who was pregnant with eight puppies to death because she was upset they kept coming in their yard, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

In August, the sheriff’s office agricultural crimes unit began investigating after a Lakeland couple’s cats died within hours of each other. Before they died, the cats — named Luna and Pancake — were foaming at the mouth, choking, unable to breathe and in “obvious significant pain,” a press release said. About four hours after the cats died, the couple couldn’t find their Chihuahua named Daisy. When they found the dog, she was “obviously deceased” along with the unborn puppies.

The couple later told deputies that they were in an ongoing feud with their neighbor, 51-year-old Tamesha Knighten, who “repeatedly threatened” to poison the animals because she was mad they kept walking into her yard, deputies said. The couple noticed on the day the animals died Knighten paced along the fence they shared with her. She also yelled at the victims’ kids who were playing outside.

Knighten also was outside when they saw one of the cats foaming at the mouth and she suggested it may be because the cat may be choking on a frog. When investigators searched the property, they found a Styrofoam bowl with what appeared to be canned chicken “mixed with a dark colored material,” according to the press release. Knighten initially denied having any Styrofoam bowls or canned chicken but cops allegedly found both in her pantry.

Detectives also caught her on her own surveillance cameras placing the bowl on the ground while wearing a rubber glove. Knighten denied her involvement, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference.

“This suspect, despite all evidence to the contrary, repeatedly denied killing her neighbor’s pets, even telling our detectives that she’s a nurse and had too much to lose,” Judd said. “Well guess what? These people lost their beloved pets in a most horrific way, and she lost her freedom by going to jail. It takes a cold-hearted person to poison and kill two cats and a pregnant dog — it’s hard to imagine how a person in the medical field could do such a thing.”

Knighten works as a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, Judd said.

“We call her an IJN, as in the jail nurse,” quipped Judd.

The suspect eventually admitted to putting chicken out but said it wasn’t poison, rather her “special seasoning.” A chemical analysis of the poison completed last week determined the pets had ingested Phorate, a pesticide found in insecticides. The chemical also was found in the bowl with the chicken, according to Judd.

Deputies arrested Knighten on three felony charges of animal cruelty and one count of depositing poison in a public area.

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Kylian Walterlin

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