BUNCOMBE COUNTY DISTRICT COURT JUDGE CALVIN HILL HOLDS SIDEBAR WITH ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY LYLE SHERARD; SHARIAH JESSAMYN METZGER’S ATTORNEY, MICHAEL CASTERLION; AND JACE LEE GREENE’S ATTORNEY, MICHAEL MACHT, DURING PRETRIAL HEARING NOVEMBER 14.
Community seeks justice after family cat’s murder
By DIANA STARR
Developments in the high-profile case of an alleged ritual cat killing took center stage in Buncombe County District Court on Wednesday.
Following publication of grisly Instagram photos of a mutilated cat that led to arrest warrants for the three individuals, two dozen representatives of Asheville Cat Weirdos and Melissa and Aaron Naster, the dead cat’s family members—filled a Buncombe County courtroom on November 15. The case gained widespread news coverage in recent weeks throughout Western North Carolina due to the horrific allegations faced by the defendants.
According to authorities, Jace Lee Greene, 28, Shariah Jessamyn Metzger, 26, and Zackery Eugene “Spoons” Greene, 30, who is not in custody, are believed to have ritualistically tortured, killed and mutilated a cat known as “Kitty”, a beloved member of the Naster family of West Asheville.
Clues to how the defense of the accused might shape up were revealed during Wednesday’s pretrial hearing. Over the objections of the defense, Buncombe District Court Judge Calvin Hill continued the cases until December 11 and changed Metzger’s and Greene’s bonds from secured to unsecured with three release conditions.
Metzger and Greene have been held in the Buncombe County Detention Center since October 28, on misdemeanor charges of improper burial of an animal and instigating animal cruelty. Both defendants were being held on $20,000 secured bond each until Greene’s bail was reduced by Judge Hill to $2,000 secured on 11/08, while Metzger’s remained at $20,000 secured. Buncombe County Assistant District Attorney Jeremey Ingle asked the court for a one-month continuance citing the ongoing investigation into the current charges against the defendants.
Metzger’s defense counsel, Michael Casterline, and Greene’s defense counsel, Michael Macht, both objected. Audible gasps from the courtroom could be heard when Casterline stated that a dog killed Kitty and “it would be difficult for the state to prove either of these charges.” Casterline went on to argue that his client was being held on an “extremely high bond” compared to the relatively minor offenses, Class 1 and Class 3 misdemeanors, she is charged with. With no prior convictions, he argued his client would not be facing an active sentence and stated that even if she pled guilty she would walk out of custody and be on probation at worst or out on time served.
Macht argued that the case was originally charged as a state ordinance violation and his client has been in custody for more than 2 weeks while investigators looked to add even more charges. He stated, “My client unfortunately remains in custody despite the fact that the DA’ s office was kind enough to relay to us today that again this was an animal that was killed by the hands of another animal, so it was killed by what the necropsy results turned out by a dog.”
Hill granted the state’s continuance but added that since neither of the defendants has any prior convictions (Greene faces pending assault by strangulation and assault on a female charges in Mecklenburg County) and it’s unlikely they will do any jail time, even if convicted on the current charges, he could not justify continuing to keep them in custody. He unsecured their bonds with additional supervision ordering (1) a direct assignment to pre-trial release, (2) that they have no animals/no contact with any animals and (3) imposed a 7pm curfew; but since the defendants are transients, it was not clear how the state will ensure their compliance.
After the hearing concluded, asked how his family is doing, Aaron Naster said, “We’re doing okay. My son doesn’t show his emotions much. He takes a lot of walks alone. My daughter cried for three days. I do feel justice has already been served. People who are strangers to each other have come together to support the protection of the innocent, which is what Kitty was. We feel the community’s love and support. Kitty has been honored and that’s most important. That’s why we’re all here.” But later in the evening when word came that the alleged killers were released on bond, Aaron Naster broke down in a message to Enquiring Minds, “It’s Aaron, Kitty’s dad. I guess the girl bonded out 15 min ago. I’m not happy about this. I tried to stay positive today but I have to say it’s pretty disappointing that animal cruelty laws are so lax.”