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Accused cat killer to appear in court for mental health update

ATHENS, Ala. - Ronald Golden, an Athens man who was arrested on 22 counts of cruelty to animals in 2013 is set to appear in court again in September.

Golden's arrest stemmed from a neighbor’s complaint that she had found a dead cat in her yard.

The Limestone County District Attorney said upon investigation, two living kittens were discovered, along with the remains of several animals, in Golden’s backyard.

Golden further gave an unrecorded statement to law enforcement that he had killed 22 cats.

On the exact same day he was arrested, the Probate Court of Limestone County, in its Order for Outpatient Commitment found Ronald Frasier Golden to be “mentally ill” and “unable at this time, to make a rational and informed decision as to whether or not any specific continued treatment for his illness would be desirable.” Golden was further ordered by the Probate Court to seek outpatient treatment.

While the criminal case was pending, Golden continued to receive mental health treatment.

After further investigation, law enforcement was unable to establish that pertinent portions of Golden’s confession were true.

  • There was no evidence of Craigslist purchases, no evidence of a torture room, and there was no evidence of the remains of twenty-two cats.
  • After a review of the animal remains photographed by investigators, the state’s expert witness was unable to state with certainty that any of the remains were in fact a cat.
  • Of the blood like material found in the home, it was not conclusively established whether the blood was from cats or from Golden or whether it was blood at all.
  • The only evidence that Golden bought twenty-two cats on Craigslist and killed them in a torture room was the unrecorded statement Golden made to Athens Police Investigators at a time when he was suffering from mental illness and on the exact same day Golden was found to be legally “mentally ill.”

On May 25, 2018 the Limestone County District Attorney’s Office conceded Golden’s plea of Not Guilty by Mental Disease or Defect.

On that date, Golden was ordered to undergo a mental evaluation by the Alabama Department of Mental Health at the Taylor Hardin secure medical facility in Tuscaloosa to determine whether Golden was a “danger to himself and/or others."

On May 30, 2018 the Alabama Department of Mental Health notified the parties that Golden’s assessment was complete. Based upon ADMH’s findings Golden was ordered to be released from Taylor Hardin.

He was then ordered to continue his regime of mental health treatment until such time as the matter can be set for a hearing on Golden’s final disposition.

In September, experts from the Alabama Department of Mental Health will offer testimony on Golden's mental health treatment over time.

WHNT News 19 spoke with a Limestone County animal shelter who said they make sure to do extensive research on those looking to adopt.

"It helps keep people who may not have good intentions for the animals from getting them. We do have an adoption application we have people fill out, we check vet references to make sure that they've taken their pets in regularly for exams and vaccines," said Mendi Estes of the Athens-Limestone Animal Shelter.

The Limestone County District Attorney's office says Golden's case is a reminder that with proper treatment, people suffering from mental illness can get better and live productive and full lives.

Here is the Limestone County District Attorney's full statement:

“Unfortunately, in our society mental health and mental illness has gotten a lot of negative attention because of other peoples acts of random violence.  This attention has created fear and distrust in our community and across our country.  The State of Alabama has cut the funding for mental health treatment and many mentally ill individuals within our community end up in our jails which are not equipped to treat or manage mental illness.  Ronald Golden’s case is a reminder of the problem law enforcement faces when dealing with the mentally ill.  Ronald Golden’s case is also a reminder that with proper treatment, people suffering from mental illness can get better and live productive and full lives.”

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