CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – A Chesterfield woman found guilty of animal cruelty is now also guilty of felony vandalism.
Patti Wheeler's visit to court served two purposes: dealing with felony vandalism charges for the damages done to a rental property after Wheeler kept more than 50 cats inside a home on Treely Road, and appealing her October conviction on five counts of animal cruelty. She pled no contest to the felony charges in exchange for prosecution dropping 3 of the 5 original animal cruelty convictions.
"She's obviously very nervous and very concerned about what the future holds for her. But she understands that she was responsible for this situation getting out of hand," said Defense Attorney John Rockecharlie.
Now a probation officer will prepare a pre-sentence interview packet.
"The judge will have a little more background about who Patti Wheeler is and the kind of life she's lead for the last 50 years," Rockecharlie said.
Rockecharlie says Wheeler's compassion got the best of her. The problem quickly snowballed to the cats taking control of her 3-bedroom house and Wheeler sleeping in her car.
"People want to come to Patti Wheeler's defense. She's a wonderful person," he said.
As for the house on Treely Road it was last assessed at a value of more than $120,000. Right now it's uninhabitable. According to the commonwealth's attorney, the property owner has removed all surfaces, that includes the drywall and the flooring- it was all thrown out. He's gotta spend a small fortune in order to make this house livable again.
"The commonwealth does not have a solid figure as to what it would cost to fix the house," said Rockecharlie.
Prosecutors, who weren't available for comment, expect to property owner to testify at sentencing. Wheeler could serve up to seven years behind bars. It's unclear if she will have to pay for any repairs. She's free tonight, still working at an area vet clinic.