Kittrell

Miranda Kittrell is led into Jones County Justice Court to face nearly 40 counts of animal cruelty. (LL-C file photo)

 

Kittrell accused of pocketing cash donated for half-sister’s funeral

A Jones County woman who was charged with more than three dozen counts of animal cruelty is now being accused of stealing money that was donated to pay funeral expenses for her half-sister, who was killed in June.

Kittrell, 37, raised about $6,500 on a GoFundMe page, purportedly to pay for 28-year-old Ashley Pearson’s funeral after she was killed in her home on Powers Drive. But Victims’ Advocates paid all funeral expenses and “Miranda took the money for herself,” Lynn Lowe Kitchens wrote in a Facebook post that included her correspondence with GoFundMe officials and instructed donors how to get their money back.


To file a report for a refund of a donation that was given for funeral expenses for Ashley Pearson, go to  https://gofundme.com/f/FamilofAshley (there is no “y” in “family.”) A link to finish the report will then be emailed. After another email or two, money will be refunded in 3-7 days, Lynn Lowe Kitchens wrote.


Earlier this month, Kittrell was arrested for 39 counts of animal cruelty — all misdemeanors — after being on the run from law enforcement for about two weeks. The dogs were discovered when the JCSD executed a search warrant Aug. 21 at a mobile home at 10 Ball Drive, which has a Seminary postal address but is in the southern part of Jones County. The dogs appeared malnourished and had been abandoned, officials said.

Four days later, the mobile home was destroyed by fire. Kittrell was released from the Jones County Adult Detention Center after posting $5,000 bond last week.

This is the third time Kittrell has been accused in an animal-cruelty case, Berlin said.

In 2017, as a founding member of the now-defunct Animal Rescue Team, Kittrell faced charges of animal neglect and abuse when JCSD deputies took 40 dogs and nearly 20 horses living in poor conditions at multiple properties. Kittrell was charged with 13 counts of failing to provide sustenance to the animals. 

This time, the punishment could be tougher because of enhanced state laws that took effect July 1. Each act of cruelty or abuse that is committed against more than one animal will count as a separate offense. Previously, no matter how many animals were involved, it was one cruelty charge. Under the new law, Kittrell could face up to six months in jail and a fine of $39,000.

Southern Pines Animal Shelter took the dogs from the property, and its officials wrote that it would likely cost more than $17,000 to care for the animals while trying to get them adopted out to new families.

Sources close to the investigation said Kittrell’s children had been kept in the mobile home, too. The cause of the fire is under investigation by JCSD arson investigator J.D. Carter.

Pearson’s boyfriend, 28-year-old Adam Mills, was charged with first-degree murder in her death in June. 

“He had beaten on her before,” Kittrell said, choking back tears after his initial appearance in Jones County Justice Court. “She was about to leave him, and I think that’s why he killed her. They had been fighting, then he left my sister there, and (Mills) cut her to pieces.”

It’s not likely there will be charges for the fraudulent collection of the money unless any individual donations exceeded $1,000, Sgt. J.D. Carter of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department said after conferring with the District Attorney’s Office. That’s the amount that would push it over the threshold to be a felony. Donors who don’t get their money back from GoFundMe can file charges at Jones County Justice Court, Carter said.

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