An Athens man who confessed to killing 22 cats he bought on Craigslist in 2013 has been released from custody, according to Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones.
Jones says on October 10, 2013, Ronald Fraser Golden was arrested by Athens police for 22 counts of cruelty to animals after a neighbor complained she found a dead cat in her yard. While investigating, two living kittens were found, along with the remains of several animals in Golden’s back yard, Jones says.
According to Jones, Golden gave an unrecorded statement to Athens police saying he'd killed 22 cats. On the same day, Jones says the Probate Court of Limestone County determined 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.”
Jones says Golden was ordered to seek outpatient treatment and while his criminal case was pending, he continued to receive mental health treatment.
Upon further investigation, Jones says law enforcement was unable to establish portions of Golden’s confession to be true. He says there was no evidence of Craigslist purchases, no evidence of a torture room and no evidence of the remains of 22 cats.
According to Jones, after reviewing photographs of the animal remains, a witness for the state was unable to say with certainty that any of the remains were from a cat. He says blood-like material found in the home was not conclusively established to be from cats, from Golden or to be blood at all.
Jones says the only evidence that Golden bought 22 cats on Craigslist and killed them in a torture room was the unrecorded statement he made to police during the time he was suffering from mental illness and on the same day he was found to be legally “mentally ill.”
Based upon these conclusions, Jones says on May 25, 2018 the Limestone County District Attorney’s Office conceded Golden’s plea of Not Guilty by Mental Disease or Defect. Golden was ordered on that date to undergo a mental evaluation by the Alabama Department of Mental Health at a medical facility in Tuscaloosa to determine whether he was a “danger to himself and/or others.”
Jones says on May 30, 2018, the Alabama Department of Mental Health completed Golden’s assessment. Based on its findings, Golden was ordered to be released from the facility. Golden was also ordered to continue receiving mental health treatment until "such time as the matter can be set for a hearing on Ronald Golden’s final disposition," Jones says.
That hearing is set for September 10, 2019 at 9 a.m.
Below is a statement about Golden's case from Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones.
“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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