Woman accused of neglecting dozens of cats in NE Miami-Dade efficiency to stand trial

(WSVN) - Miami-Dade detectives call it an alarming case of animal cruelty. Now the woman accused of neglecting dozens of cats is headed to trial. Here is Brian Entin with an update in this 7 Investigates.

Brian Entin: “Ms. Smilen, is there anything you want to say to the people who thought you were rescuing cats?”

Cheryn Smilen appeared in court, hoping a judge would go easy on her and give her what’s known in court terms as a downward departure to avoid jail time.

But prosecutors laid out gruesome allegations against Smilen that the judge could not ignore. They say Smilen locked cats in a hot Northeast Miami-Dade efficiency with no water and no food.

Detectives say it was essentially a torture chamber.

Detective: “I can tell you this is the worst animal cruelty case that I have had to handle. Absolutely.”

What’s more disturbing is that Smilen ran a cat rescue group, but investigators say she abandoned the cats she claimed to be helping.

And they starved, some even eating each other to survive.

Animal advocates who used to work with Smilen are outraged.

Arlene Bercun: “Some of them were cats that I gave her, that I nurtured in my house for a while and loved them, and she told me she was going to get them adopted.”

We broke the story last year, when police were called about a strange odor coming from the efficiency. They made the horrific discovery when they went inside: decomposing cats, one even found in the sink.

Brian Entin: “What was it like to see her in court?”

Mimi Miller: “It was strange. You know, mixed feelings. On one hand I feel sorry, and then the other I feel angry.”

The defense told the judge Smilen suffers from mental illness and needs treatment. They’ll take the case to trial, hoping to avoid jail time.

Arlene Bercun: “We need to make an example of this for people to see that they can’t get away with this. It happens too much.”

The judge made clear there will be no more continuances on the case, and it is set for trial in December.

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