A Houston man and a woman have been jailed for torturing a cat and a dog in 2010 and posting videos of the killings online as part of a scheme to make money from people who use the violence for sexual gratification, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
Ashley Nichole Richards, 21, and Brent Wayne Justice, 51, are each charged with felony cruelty to non-livestock animals, court records show. A judge set a $40,000 bond for Richards and a $20,000 bond for Justice. Both were being held Monday in the Harris County Jail.
Details of the case were so graphic that a judge halted the reading of the court documents during a probable cause hearing last week.
Prosecutors said that throughout 2010 Richards received emails from clients who offered to pay her money to provide so-called "crush" videos of tortured animals for their sexual gratification.
She made good on the requests, investigators said.
In one of the videotapes, Richards can be seen torturing a pit bull puppy, according to a criminal complaint filed Aug. 16 in the case. She allegedly bound the puppy's mouth with tape, and cut its back leg with a meat cleaver. She then cut the back of the dog's neck and used a different knife to cut the underside of its neck, prosecutors said.
"The dog was bleeding and struggling" when Richards used the meat cleaver and "severed its head from the body," a prosecutor told a magistrate during the probable cause hearing, prompting the judge to halt further graphic details being read in the courtroom.
Investigators seized multiple videos of various animals being tortured, according to prosecutors. In one of the videos, Richards allegedly stomped on a cat's eye with a shoe heel.
The videotapes allegedly were recorded at a location on Forum Park Drive in Houston.
During an interview with investigators, Justice admitted that he videotaped Richards torturing the animals and killing the pit bull puppy, according to prosecutors. In one of the videos, Justice allegedly placed a knife on the floor within Richards' reach as she tormented an animal.
The case was reported to Houston authorities by Washington, D.C.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"Thanks to an e-mail from a concerned member of the public who notified PETA about gruesome videos showing puppies, kittens, rabbits, mice, and other animals being tortured and killed, PETA was able to determine that the alleged producers of the videos lived in Houston, and we notified local authorities," PETA spokeswoman Shikara Croce stated in an email. "Just two days later, the Houston Police Department made two arrests in connection with the horrific crimes."
Houston Humane Society spokeswoman Monica Schmidt said that she has "never heard of a case like this" in her four years in animal rights.
"In the back of my mind, I've heard that something like this existed but I never dreamed that my city would be where this horrible abuse would be taking place," Schmidt said. "I think this takes animal cruelty to a whole different level of what we're used to seeing in Houston."
Schmidt said anyone who sees or knows of animal abuse should call the Houston Humane Society at 713-433-6421 or report the abuse online at www.houstonhumane.org.
"We have a unique partnership with the Harris County Precinct 6 Constable's Office, so every report is investigated by a police officer and taken seriously."
According to Wikipedia online, a crush fetish is a perversion in which one is sexually aroused when "usually someone of the opposite sex crushes objects, food and sometimes small animals or insects with their body, usually under their foot."
Court records show that Justice has prior separate convictions for assault on a peace officer and aggravated assault on a police officer.
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