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Update on Queso

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Jury selection scheduled in trial of ex-Baylor baseball player accused of killing cat

Jury selection in the trial of a former Baylor University baseball player charged with beheading a stray cat is set for Monday.

Derek Brehm is charged with Class A misdemeanor animal cruelty in McLennan County Court-at-Law Judge Mike Gassaway's court.

Because of the nature of the crime and the interest it has generated from the media and animal rights groups, Gassaway has ordered 50 prospective jurors to start jury selection instead of the usual 15, court officials said.

Brehm's co-defendant, former Baylor baseball player Clint Bowers, is set for trial April 1.

Brehm, a former pitcher from San Antonio, and Bowers, a former reserve outfielder from Robinson, are charged in a March 9, 2001 incident in which they reportedly shot, decapitated and skinned a stray cat near the Baylor campus.

The cat reportedly was named "Queso" by some employees of Taco Cabana restaurant near Baylor, where the cat hung around looking for food scraps and affection.

Prosecutors Crawford Long and Melanie Walker have offered no plea bargains to either defendant, saying the case should be decided by a jury.

Both men, through their attorneys, have indicated that they would plead guilty if their sentences would keep them out of jail.

"I think it is unfortunate that we have to go to trial," said Brehm's lawyer, Russ Hunt. "I think the boys did something that showed a lack of judgment, but I don't think they violated the law."

Both players have left the team. Brehm has moved back to San Antonio while Bowers remains a student at Baylor.

Sources close to the case say prosecutors are considering calling Bowers as a witness in Brehm's trial despite the fact that they are co-defendants. The prosecutors might offer Bowers what is known as "testimonial immunity," where he would be forced to testify but nothing he said could be used against him at his own trial.

Long declined comment about the case.

"Since the case is scheduled for trial, I feel it is inappropriate for me to make any comment at this time," Long said.

Waco lawyer Rod Goble, who represents Bowers, said he will attend Brehm's trial to see how things develop.

"From the very beginning, the actions of both kids have been lumped together," Goble said. "I am glad that they are finally being separated and that Clint will be treated for the matters he was involved in and not the other things that occurred."

Officials have said that Bowers reportedly shot the cat with a pellet gun and that Brehm decapitated it and skinned the head.

Hunt has said the cat was not tortured as has been alleged.

The pair were arrested after officers responded to a report that a gun was fired about 4 a.m. near the South Sixth Street restaurant. Officers were told that someone shot a cat, put it in a sport utility vehicle and drove off, Waco police said.

Officers stopped Brehm's Chevrolet Tahoe and saw what appeared to be blood on the door and steering wheel, according to police reports. Police found a severed, skinned cat's head in the back of the SUV, along with a pellet gun, a knife and a golf club that appeared to have cat hair on it.

If convicted, Brehm faces up to a year in the county jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.

The trial is expected to last about three days.

Tommy Witherspoon can be reached at twitherspoon@wacotrib.com or at 757-5737.

-End of Article-
post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 
Dear Friends of Queso,
This sucks!!! I hate these people! How heartless can they be!

I've been sitting here, trying to make some sense of the world and wondering why it is that man can do such harm to an innocent animal and have that harm trivialized in such a way that he does not have to be made accountable.

Derek Brehm was found "Not Guilty" today.

It was around 1:00 that the verdict was reached after a very brief jury meeting. I have no other details at the moment, but I wanted to get the news out to you, as I know you are anxious to hear what happened today at the trial.

There should be a story (probably on the front page) of the Waco newspaper tomorrow. I will forward you the online version tomorrow evening and more details as I receive them.

This is a very sad day. We all love our little Queso, and for today to turn out like it did is not just.
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Dear Friends of Queso,

Below is today's article in the Waco Tribune-Herald. It gives some details of the trial. There are so many things in this article that occurred during the trial that are upsetting, I can't even begin to figure out where to start to make comments. There is one part where Derek Brehm describes what he and Clint Bowers did to poor little Queso, so I just want to advise you to exercise some caution as you read this article.

Jury acquits ex-Baylor baseball player in cat killing; charges dismissed vs. 2nd player
And, for some more bad news, as if we haven't had enough, prosecutor Crawford Long dismissed the animal cruelty charge against Clint Bowers.

A McLennan County jury acquitted former Baylor University baseball player Derek Brehm of misdemeanor animal cruelty charges Tuesday in the shooting and decapitation of the stray cat called Queso.

Brehm flashed a big smile in the courtroom for the first time during the two-day trial and hugged his family and friends after the verdict was read.

The county court-at-law jury deliberated 55 minutes before clearing Brehm in the March 9, 2001, incident in which he and former Baylor outfielder Clint Bowers were arrested in Brehm's vehicle with a severed, skinned cat's head, a pellet gun, a knife and a golf club with blood and cat hair on it.

After Brehm's acquittal, prosecutor Crawford Long dismissed the animal cruelty charge against Bowers.

"The reason I dismissed the charge is that the co-defendant was found not guilty by a jury and our evidence is almost identical on Bowers that was presented on Brehm except for the fact that on some elements, perhaps Brehm's evidence might be a little stronger even," Long said.

Brehm, who since has transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington, testified Tuesday that Bowers shot the cat on the patio of Taco Cabana about 4 a.m. He said he grabbed the cat, which he said was dead, drove a few blocks and he and Bowers both hit it with a 9-iron to make doubly sure it was dead.

After that, Brehm told the jury, he skinned the head and then cut the head off with a knife so he could bleach the skull and keep it like some of his cousins have done to the heads of coyotes, bobcats and deer.

After the players were arrested, the case drew nationwide attention, and animal rights groups and animal lovers wrote to District Attorney John Segrest asking that both men be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Brehm said after his acquittal that he is relieved to have the case behind him. He said he regrets his actions, but insisted that animal rights activists have "blown this all out of proportion," forcing him to go to trial when he was willing to plead guilty for a probated sentence.

The jury of three men and three women was instructed that to convict Brehm, the state had to prove that he either tortured the cat or killed an animal that belonged to someone without that person's consent.

The definition of animal as defined in the penal code and given to the jury Tuesday by Judge Mike Gassaway is a "domesticated living creature and wild living creature previously captured. Animal does not include an uncaptured wild creature or a wild creature whose capture was accomplished by conduct at issue under this section."

"We did our duty. That's all I can tell you," the presiding juror said as she left the courthouse. Two other jurors declined to discuss the verdict.

Brehm's attorney, Russ Hunt, told jurors that the cat was a stray "feral" or wild cat, was not owned by anyone and was not tortured because it was dead after Bowers shot it with the pellet gun.

Prosecutors Long and Melanie Walker alleged that Teresa Jones, the night manager at Taco Cabana, owned the cat or at least had a "greater right to possession" of the cat than Brehm. Jones told jurors Monday that she named the cat Queso because of its fondness for spicy cheese sauce. She said she fed the cat for several months and had befriended it and another black and white cat that hung around the restaurant that she called Taco.

She testified Monday that the cat was not dead when Brehm snatched it from the patio, saying she heard it "crying" as Brehm took it away.

Hunt said he thinks Brehm was acquitted because the jury realized that the animal cruelty law was not written to pertain to wild animals. If it did, Hunt said it would be "open season" on deer hunters because people could claim that they loved the deer that had been killed and the hunter would be arrested.

"I don't feel that Derek should have ever been prosecuted because the statute obviously didn't fit the circumstances of this case," Hunt said.

Brehm testified Tuesday that he grew up on a farm in San Antonio, where he had lots of pets, including 13 or 14 cats and two dogs.

"I've always loved pets," Brehm said. "I would never shoot anybody's pet and I would never, ever torture an animal. Cats sleep in my bed at home with me all the time."

Brehm said he draws a distinction between domesticated pets and feral cats, which frequently attacked his cats at home and infected them with diseases.

Brehm testified that he performed 50 hours of community service at the Waco Animal Shelter and lost his scholarship as part of his punishment from Baylor after his arrest.

Kathy Robnett, president and co-director of Fuzzy Friends Rescue, an animal shelter in Waco, said she is sickened by the verdict.

"I find it hard to believe that this has happened," she said. "I think the jury has done a terrific disservice to that boy. He needs to be made to make some form of reparation, at least in the form of counseling. It is frightening that this 'boys-will-be-boys' attitude has been so prevalent in this case, especially in light of the research that has been done proving links between animal cruelty and future violence against humans.

"I think it is sending a message loud and clear to come on to Waco and do whatever you want to animals. Come on down," she said.

Bowers, who is from Robinson, is still a student at Baylor, although he is no longer on the baseball team. His attorney, Rod Goble, said Bowers and his family are "extremely happy with the results."

"Based on the jury's decision today, I think the action taken by the district attorney's office was appropriate and the proper thing to do," Goble said of the dismissal of charges against Bowers.

Long said he presented the best case he could to the jury.

"That was everything we had. They heard the evidence, they heard our arguments and they decided that, under the evidence, the defendant was not guilty," Long said. "There wasn't anything else we could do. It was their decision to make and they made it. We accept the jury's decision."
post #4 of 6
Poor kitty. I can't believe that some people can be so cruel. I am mad that they boys didn't get a tougher sentence.
post #5 of 6
Someone owned that cat at some time. Some child is probably still asking if her kitty will ever come home.
Even if this were not true, and even if the act was not abominable in itself, the torture and killing of animals while young is a sign of social problems, and could foreshadow serial killing. Perhaps he never killed or tortured another animal, but this is ONE. Let's hope there is not a TWO. How manly to be able to display a helpless animal's skull!
post #6 of 6
i wish i had not read all this. now my heart aches for that kitty. shame were not still living in the old testament. eye for eye, tooth for tooth. any decent human being would be sickend by these actions. i would really like to do to them what they did to the cat. have peace in knowing they WILL answer to GOD someday. may they be thrown in the deepest pits of hell! AND IF WERE LUCKY SOME OUTRAGED PEOPLE WITH KICK THIER PATHETIC ,POOR EXCUSE FOR A HUMAN BEING *SS!
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