BROOKSVILLE — Wrapped in a white T-shirt, the kitten's nose and mouth were splotched with dried blood.
No more than 8 weeks old, he was a half pound of balled-up black and white fur when Linda Christian first saw him on Friday. His eyes were squeezed shut.
Just minutes earlier, witnesses say, he and another kitten had been kicked, thrown and beaten with a metal baseball bat by Wilana Joenel Frazier, a 24-year-old pregnant woman, and her two young children. The animal was tortured so badly its brain was swelling. Soon, the seizures would begin.
This kitten, now named Dexter, was the lucky one.
Christian, a Hernando County Animal Services officer, had found the other kitten at the bottom of a trash can in Hill n' Dale Park, east of Brooksville. Dead and drenched in water, his head was traumatized and his neck was sliced open. Blood covered his nose, mouth and ears.
Christian had never seen such brutality.
"Disturbing," she said. "It's awful."
Frazier, of 27127 Simona Ave., was arrested Friday on two charges of cruelty to animals and two charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Her bail amount was set at $3,500.
Deputies contacted the Department of Children and Families, which indicated it would complete a report on the incident.
When authorities confronted Frazier, she denied the allegations.
According to her Facebook page, where she goes by "Nuce Boo," Frazier graduated from Hernando High School in 2005. In 2007, according to the clerk's office website, she was charged with resisting a law enforcement officer without violence.
Four witnesses at the park, authorities say, watched Frazier and her two boys — one 8 years old and the other 5 — torture the kittens. According to authorities, this is what the witnesses saw:
With a metal baseball bat, Frazier repeatedly struck the two kittens. She and her two children also kicked them and threw one of the animals against a tree.
The children later took a kitten, placed it in a swing and continued kicking it. One of Frazier's sons also cut one of the animal's necks with a stick.
During the torture, a witness overheard Frazier say she would "kill a ho."
After the kitten died, one of the boys tossed the animal in a trash can and poured water over its body. Christian was told the boys had tried to drown it.
Friday night, authorities say, a deputy questioned Frazier. She told him she was at the park and saw other children "messing with some cats" but she kept her two sons away from them. She denied torturing the kittens and refused to provide a sworn written statement.
A child who had witnessed the torture took the surviving kitten home with him.
When Christian first touched the kitten, his neck stretched back and he began to convulse.
"I thought I was going to lose him at that point," Christian said. "It was very upsetting. Very emotional."
Patrick Pace, Animal Services supervisor, soon called Rick Silvani, president of Pet Luv Nonprofit Spay and Neuter Clinic. Silvani told Pace that Pet Luv would pay for all of Dexter's medical bills and nurse him back to health.
"All animals have a right to life, but a helpless, defenseless kitten," Silvani said, pausing. "You don't know what to say. It's just incomprehensible."
Dexter is named after a Shih Tzu that Pet Luv staff helped save from a skin disease and canine parvovirus. Silvani hopes the name brings the kitten some luck.
Employees have cared for him at the clinic during the day, and a technician has taken him home at night. Dexter has kept his medication down, is eating from a feeding tube and has begun to walk some on his own. Due to the potential brain damage, though, Silvani isn't sure Dexter will live.
Still, Christian says, the kitten was fortunate to have survived this long after such a violent beating.
"You know, they say that cats have nine lives," she said. "It may have used up its quota in one fell swoop there."
News researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Reach John Woodrow Cox at (352) 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.