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‘Cold-Hearted Person’: Florida Nurse Poisoned Neighbors’ Cats, Pregnant Dog for Going Into Her Yard, Sheriff Says


LAKELAND, Fla. (PCSO) – Polk County Sheriff’s Office Agricultural Crimes Unit detectives have arrested and charged 51-year-old Tamesha Knighten of North Davis Avenue in Lakeland, who is a licensed practical nurse working for United Health Care at Wellmed in Lakeland, with three counts felony animal cruelty and one count depositing poison in a public area, after she purposely poisoned a neighbors’ two pet cats and their pregnant Chihuahua, which also killed the 8 puppies in the dog’s womb.

The investigation began when the couple’s two cats, Luna and Pancake, died within hours of each other, both exhibiting the following symptoms: choking, unable to breathe, foaming from the mouth, and in obvious significant pain. Approximately four hours later, they could not find their pregnant Chihuahua named Daisy and began looking around the house for her. When they found Daisy, she was obviously deceased, along with her puppies which were still in her womb.

During the investigation, the victims told detectives that Knighten had repeatedly threatened to poison their pets if the pets came into her yard. On the day that the pets died, they noticed Knighten pacing in her yard along the shared fence line. She had also yelled at the victims’ children that day, who were outside playing ball. The victims asked her not to yell at their kids. They said Knighten was also outside when they noticed their cat acting strangely in the yard, foaming at the mouth, and that Knighten said the cat must be choking on a frog.

When detectives interviewed Knighten, she told them that she had placed ant bait outside on the ground around her air conditioning unit due to ants getting into the unit. When they looked in the victims’ yard, they found a white Styrofoam bowl on the ground, with a white meaty substance mixed with a dark colored material. Knighten claimed to not own any white Styrofoam bowls, until detectives found a package of them in her pantry, at which point she said, “Oh, I guess I do have them.” She also had canned chicken in her pantry, after denying that she had any. Detectives noted there are video cameras in her yard, and asked to see the video from that day. She showed them the video, which showed her wearing a blue glove, holding a white Styrofoam bowl containing a white and brown substance. In the video she’s also talking to a relative and pointing at the neighbor’s yard.

Detectives asked her what she was doing with the bowl and she told them that she didn’t know what was in it, or why she was holding it. They asked her why she was wearing a blue glove and she said she was picking up papers in her yard – but when detectives looked in her trash can there were no papers to be found. They told her the bowl looked like it contained tuna, to which she replied, “It wasn’t tuna, it was chicken.” When asked what the chicken had on it, she called it her “special seasoning” and said she put the bowl of food outside to “feed animals in the area.”

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Samples from the white Styrofoam bowl of chicken laced with what Knighted described as her “special seasoning,” of the pets’ tissues taken during their necropsies, and of the ant bait, were sent to the University of Florida and analyzed by that school’s veterinary pathology department, as well as labs at Texas A&M University and Michigan State University. The chemical analysis confirmed that the pets had ingested Phorate, a pesticide found in insecticides, which matched the sample from the laced canned chicken in the bowl, and doctors stated that Phorate would have caused the animals to suffer. The ant bait was not present in any of the animals.

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“This suspect, despite all evidence to the contrary, repeatedly denied killing her neighbor’s pets, even telling our detectives that she’s a nurse and had too much to lose. Well guess what? These people lost their beloved pets in a most horrific way, and she lost her freedom by going to jail. It takes a cold-hearted person to poison and kill two cats and a pregnant dog—it’s hard to imagine how a person in the medical field could do such a thing.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff

Tamesha Knighten’s criminal history includes an arrest in September 2013 for aggravated battery (domestic) with a deadly weapon. She has been booked into the Polk County Jail.

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