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Tampa man accused of torching three cats

The cat cries from 8410 N Orangeview Ave. were so loud Monday night that a neighbor called police.

Richard Aaron Wyatt, 30, was behind bars Tuesday, accused of pouring gasoline on cats, then torching them and drowning them.

Tampa police said he enticed three cats to his house with food. Then, investigators said, he burned them with gas and a propane torch before dunking them in a container of water and placing them into black garbage bags ready for trash pickup.

Wyatt's older brother, Army Capt. Larry Wyatt, 39, said he couldn't defend his sibling's actions.

"He messed up," Larry Wyatt said as his brother sat in the Orient Road Jail on $6,000 bail. "He's feeling it now."

But he said the stray cat problem in the Temple Crest neighborhood, south of Busch Boulevard, had been ongoing.

"Cat fights in the yard, cats walking over vehicles, paw prints on their cars," Larry Wyatt said, detailing some of the complaints by Richard Wyatt and his live-in girlfriend.

Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan said the agency had made contact with Richard Wyatt at least twice in January, when he received their assistance in trapping nuisance cats legally: by containing them, then calling Animal Services.

"He was aware of that procedure, but (this time), he took the law into his own hands," Ryan said.

At least one of the cat carcasses was that of Skeeter, an 8-month-old cared for by one of the neighbors, Ryan said. Investigators were still trying to determine if the others were pets too.

Larry Wyatt said he didn't know exactly where his brother's rage came from but suggested that Richard Wyatt was tired when he came home and became exasperated with the strays.

"That's not the way to handle it," Larry Wyatt said. "But every man handles his actions a different way."

A former Air Force rigger, Richard Wyatt most recently sold air conditioners for Florida Cooling Supplies Inc., an arrest report said. Larry Wyatt said his brother lost the job after news of his arrest broke Tuesday.

Police were also investigating Richard Wyatt as a suspect in another incident. Tampa police spokesman Larry McKinnon said neighbors told officers that they saw Wyatt fire a pellet gun at a police helicopter during a flyover.

When Larry Wyatt escorted his brother's girlfriend home Tuesday night, an angry neighbor confronted him about his cat, Skeeter.

"I'm sorry about your pets," Larry Wyatt said. "That's sad."

"It's sick," the neighbor responded.

"Well," Wyatt said, "he's reaping what he sowed now."

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.