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Murdered woman’s cats rescued following ‘malicious’ treatment

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Suspect apparently locked cats up outside for days with no food, water

By Ben Carlson

The man suspected of murdering a Clay Burgin Road woman earlier this month may have boarded a half dozen of the woman’s cats in an outbuilding with no food or water before fleeing south.

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Those cats, and several more, are now in need of new homes after being rescued and taken to a Shelby County veterinary clinic.
Tena McNeely, 49, was found dead in her home Jan. 7 after being struck in the head with a blunt object, according to police.
Terry Cram, who rented a room at the residence, is wanted for her murder and is on the lam.
Police say Cram likely fled Anderson County on Jan. 3 and has used McNeely’s debit card in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.
McNeely’s cats and a pair of dogs were left to fend for themselves for several days until concerned neighbors requested police visit McNeely’s home for a welfare check.
Along with her body, police found 10 cats and the dogs. Animal control removed cats, but became concerned when Kathy Belcher of the East Shelbyville Animal Clinic alerted officers that a number of McNeely’s cats were unaccounted for.
Officers returned to find six more that, according to Belcher, had been “maliciously” boarded up outside with no heat, food or water and unable to escape.
Belcher, who cared for NcNeely’s pets for the past 13 years, said the cats are now OK, but in need of good homes.
“They were all traumatized and upset, but are now eating and drinking and none the worse for the wear,” she said. “One is on medication for congestive heart failure and lived from Monday to Saturday without any heart medication.”
Belcher is going through the process of adopting the cats out herself, and as of Friday, said 10 were still in need of homes.
The dogs, she said, have already been placed in foster homes.
“I just want them to have a good home,” she said, adding that those interested in adopting a cat can reach her at 502-633-2061.
Belcher said many of the cats require special attention, but all have been properly vetted and are current on their vaccinations.
She said she is screening those wishing to adopt to ensure they go to owners who can meet their medical needs.
Belcher said despite having so many, McNeely took great care of her animals. “Most people would regard her as a hoarder, but she was not,” said Belcher. “She took exceptional care of her pets … they were basically her children. She was just a warm-hearted, compassionate person.”
Belcher said she had never met Cram, who reportedly rented from McNeely for the past five years.
“I don’t want to malign anyone, but [McNeely] said they didn’t get along,” said Belcher. “She basically took him in as a roommate to help with expenses.”
Belcher said the extra income helped McNeely care for the cats that needed special attention.
“I would sometimes see her once a week because each pet had different problems,” she said. “She was always coming in to get medications, and most of the cats were on special diets that could only be purchased through a veterinarian.”