A Kentucky man who broke into his ex-girlfriend’s condo and stabbed to death two of her three cats has been denied parole for at least two more years, thanks in large part to thousands of internet users.
Russell Swigart, has served about two and a half years of a 12-year sentence for two counts of torture of a dog or cat and one count of second-degree burglary. He was thought to be the first person prosecuted under Romeo’s Law, which made it a felony to kill a domesticated animal.
When Kitty News Network first reported on this story two weeks ago, Bridgett Wright, the cats’ owner, had recently launched an online petition asking for signatures in support of keeping the convicted killer in prison.
Wright had hoped to collect 1,000 signatures when she posted the petition on the social networking site change.org in January. But on Feb. 14, the petition she presented to the Kentucky Parole Board contained 15,700 signatures and messages of support.
“I never in a million years dreamed I’d get so many people standing behind me,” Wright said. “[It’s] very therapeutic knowing I wasn’t alone in my fight.”
Former Kenton County Assistant Commonwealths Attorney Justin Sanders also sent a letter to the parole board detailing Swigart’s threats and previous cruelty to women’s pets. He cited research that people with histories of animal abuse are five time more likely to commit violence against people.
Wright says she’s grateful Swigart will serve at least two more years before he’s eligible for parole again, and she hopes he serves all 12 years of his sentence. And she says this a victory, not only for animal rights, but for women.
“If I had been home the evening of September 25th when Russell Swigart broke into my home, I wholeheartedly believe I would not be sitting here talking to you today. I think he broke in with an 11 inch knife to kill me,” Wright said.
Swigart’s attorney, Ashley Bellamy, says her client has taken responsibility for his actions and is being unduly maligned.
The purpose of a reformatory is to reform Mr. Swigart, and he has been reformed, Bellamy said.
She says Swigart lives in the “honors dorm” at the medium-security Northpoint Training Center, hasn’t received any infractions and helps other inmates earn high school diplomas.
“What we have in our country is a justice system, not a revenge system,” Bellamy said.
Wright said she created the online petition out of fear for her life if Swigart was released.It was in no way out of revenge, Wright said. I also didnt feel serving 2.5 years was nearly sufficient for what he has done to my life.