Darren Kuback, the Palm Coast resident charged with a felony count of animal cruelty in the death by strangulation of a cat, pleaded to the charge today and was sentenced to two years of house arrest followed by three years of probation. His trial was scheduled to start this morning.
“I treated the cat well, it was just one bad day,” Kuback, 55, told Circuit Judge Terence Perkins today in court as he pleaded no contest. He was adjudicated a felon.
As a condition of his plea, Kuback is forbidden from owning pets or from pet-sitting, with one exception: his son has a service dog. He will be allowed to be around that dog. He is also required to fulfill 50 hours of community service. Probationers normally get to end their probation at the halfway point if they’ve followed the rules. There will be no early termination either of house arrest or of probation for Kuback, according to the plea terms.
Kuback’s wife told the 911 dispatcher that he was having a mental health emergency at the time of the incident. Florida law is an all-or-nothing state when it comes to mental health impairment: either an individual is incompetent to stand trial or he or she is not, and if the individual cannot prove insanity at the time of the crime, there is no middle ground where various mental impairments, however severe, can mitigate the individual’s fate in the face of criminal charges. Kuback had been left alone with the cat–a cat he’d cared for previously–when his wife left the house for a doctor’s appointment.
But there is no record of attempts by the defense or the court to have Kuback mentally evaluated for his competency. The third-degree felony charge carried a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison.
Previous coverage is below.
53-Year-Old Palm Coast Man With Mental Health Issues Charged in Death of Cat by Strangulation
August 18, 2021—Darren Kuback, a 53-year-old resident of Burbank Drive in Palm Coast, was arrested and charged with a felony count of animal cruelty on Tuesday (Aug. 17) in the death of a cat by strangulation, an incident that appears to be connected to Kuback’s mental health issues, according to a sheriff’s report.
His medication had been recently changed, causing him no longer to act normal for two weeks, his spouse told authorities. He was due to be taken to the hospital for an evaluation because of those changes.
Kuback’s spouse called 911 late the morning of Aug. 11 to report that her husband was having “a mental emergency,” according to his arrest report–and that he’d killed his cat with his hands and could be violent with law enforcement.
“It’s too late,” Kuback told deputies when they showed up. He was standing in his driveway and asking to be taken to the hospital.
His wife told deputies she had left the house at 7 that morning for an out-of-county appointment, and had last seen the cat at 6. When she got home a little after 11, Kuback was behind closed doors, the door locked. When he came out, he had blood on his hands, on his shirt and on the cat, which he placed on the floor. The cat–which his wife said he loved and had cared for previously–appeared dead.
Authorities took Kuback to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach. The cat was taken to Flagler Animal Hospital, where a preliminary exam concluded that it had been the victim of blunt force trauma. The cat was then taken to a veterinary office at the University of Florida that specializes in necropsies. That necropsy was performed on Aug. 13. “No skull fractures, no broken bones and no previous injuries” were observed, according to the sheriff’s report on the necropsy. Referring to the veterinary pathologist, the report concludes: “The cat was in very good condition with no abnormalities or sickness being observed on examination. Due to mild hemorrhage within the muscle of the cat’s neck and failure to find any other injuries,” the pathologist would find a “high probability of strangulation.”
The report included a grisly detail: “The main finding upon necropsy was the gross deformities of the eyeballs. It appears someone was attempting to remove the eyeballs of the cat.” The pathologist was definite on one count: the cat’s death was “not natural.”
Deputies had found a “large amount of blood” behind Kuback’s bedroom door and drops and smears of blood on the bedroom carpet and on a door stopper. Daytona Beach Police arrested him Tuesday in that city. He is being held at the Volusia Branch jail on $100,000 bond over the third-degree felony charge.
He’d had previous violent episodes when he wouldn’t take his medication or mix it with alcohol, including threats to kill his spouse and harm himself, his spouse told deputies. Two years ago, after a bout of drinking, he was arrested for threatening to kill his spouse with a screw driver. The felony charge was downgraded to a misdemeanor, and adjudication was withheld. Last year authorities were again called ho his home because of his erratic behavior in an incident that resulted in a resisting-an-officer charge and battery on a law enforcement officer, a felony. A plea deal resulted in a sentence of 90 days in jail and two years’ probation–which was cut short last spring. He is still not considered a felon, as his adjudication was withheld.
“This incident is a text-book example of how people escalate to more serious crimes,” Sheriff Rick Staly said of the arrest over the cat. “This guy needs help and unfortunately it was too late for his family pet. This type of behavior could be an early warning sign that something else is going on and is often how more serious crime starts. I hope the courts order him to get the help he needs before he seriously hurts or kills a human.”
The FCSO wants to remind residents that if they are dealing with a mental health crisis or have suicidal thoughts, you are not alone! There are numerous resources for help with mental health struggles in Flagler County. For more information visit http://www.flaglerlifeline.org/local-mental-health-services/ or call 800-273-8255. You can also visit: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
An image Darren Kuback posted on his Facebook page several years ago of a cat at his home. An image Darren Kuback posted on his Facebook page several years ago of a cat at his home.