A Fort Drum soldier was arrested Thursday for allegedly mutilating his family’s cat, and his wife maintains that military authorities for months have ignored her complaints that he poses a threat to her and their child.
Sgt. Eric Ayuso, 25, was charged Friday by Watertown police with aggravated cruelty to an animal, accused of trying to cut off one of the cat’s toes on Nov. 8. The military sniper allegedly did so after the small tabby cat, named Millie, scratched the face of his son Jacob, 3, and a family friend’s child that day at their home, 1223 Faichney Drive, Apt. 2. He was sent to the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building, with bail set at $10,000 by part-time Watertown City Judge Catherine J. Palermo.
His wife, Ashley N. Ayuso, said the incident was one of several that threatened the safety of her and her son, which is why she and her friend Kristin E. Bissell, who saw the incident, relocated with their children to Virginia.
Mrs. Ayuso said she reported her husband’s behavior to military authorities, trying to get him mental health care.
“I’m not out to get him. ... I just want him to get help,” she said. The two have been married three years, though Mrs. Ayuso said their marriage is effectively over following the incident.
In a telephone interview with the Times on Friday, Mrs. Ayuso said that despite her complaints she was told by her husband’s superior that Sgt. Ayuso was still going to be deployed to Afghanistan, which would be his fourth deployment.
His superior would not provide any assurances that her husband would receive mental health assistance, she said.
Mrs. Ayuso said that when she contacted her husband’s unit, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, to report the incident, she was told not to go to civilian police and to let the matter be handled internally.
Maj. Joshua T. Jacques, deputy public affairs officer of the 10th Mountain Division, told the Times that the matter would be reviewed, but that given the circumstances of the allegations, the outcome of the review may not be released publicly.
Mrs. Bissell, who was at the Ayuso residence on Nov. 8 with her daughter Aubrey, 4, and son Mason, 11 months, said matters escalated when Sgt. Ayuso returned home from work.
Learning of the scratches, Sgt. Ayuso started yelling about the cat, said Mrs. Bissell, who described the scratches as minor.
He left the room, and Mrs. Ayuso, hearing running water in the bathroom, figured he was taking a shower.
Minutes later, the two women looked in horror as Sgt. Ayuso emerged with Millie, who was soaked and bleeding from her back right paw. Mrs. Bissell described Sgt. Ayuso as calm as he emerged with the wet cat.
“It was like he was on a mission to destroy that cat,” she said. “He didn’t care that there were kids there.”
Mrs. Bissell said Sgt. Ayuso told his wife that he was going to dispose of the cat, opening the door and telling her that the cat could “crawl away and die.”
Mrs. Ayuso grabbed the cat out of her husband’s arms, and the two went into the bedroom, where they argued loudly.
Mrs. Bissell said Sgt. Ayuso emerged a few minutes later and told her to leave, which she did, taking her children and the injured cat with her.
After Mrs. Bissell left, Sgt. Ayuso told his wife that she had picked the cat over their marriage, and that he wanted a divorce, Mrs. Ayuso said. Additionally, she said she was told she could not leave, and if she did he would not let her take Jacob and would call police if necessary to stop her.
Mrs. Ayuso declined her friend’s offer to call the police, but the two went the next day to Country Health Clinic, Carthage, where the cat stayed for three days. She also spoke with a military family life consultant on post.
Mrs. Ayuso then reported the incident to city police on Nov. 12 and noted what she described as other instances of threatening behavior. While there, she was called by her husband’s supervisor, with whom she had left a message that day.
“They said we’ll get him the help he needs,” she said, adding she was told not to involve civilian police. Already at the station, she proceeded to file a report.
The incident was one of many aggressive attacks her husband had committed on animals, Mrs. Ayuso said, including beating their dog for urinating indoors.
Mrs. Ayuso said her husband also threatened to kill her if she met with her ex-boyfriend, with whom she has a daughter, in her home state of Colorado.
In a separate incident last summer, she said her husband followed an older woman who cut him off while driving, and threatened to kill her when he approached the woman’s car on foot at a traffic light.
In a time set up through her husband’s unit to gather her belongings from their residence on Nov. 12, Mrs. Ayuso returned to find her husband had hidden her lupus medication and other personal items, destroyed all family photos and hidden three guns he owned.
Fearing that her husband would seek retribution for her report to police, she said she received clearance to leave the state in the vehicle she co-owned with her husband. She and Mrs. Bissell, concerned about her own safety, left with their children and went to Virginia.
Since arriving, she said attempts to keep tabs on her husband’s well-being, as well as have certain legal paperwork completed, were largely dismissed.
She said she was stunned to learn her husband would deploy.
“I said something along the lines of, ‘How could you deploy someone like that?’” she said. “You’re going to further subject him to something that could cause him more problems down the road.”
She said she was rebuffed by her husband’s superior when she asked whether her husband would be advised to seek mental health care.
“Well no,” she said she was told. “He’s going to be doing his job.”
Though Mrs. Bissell said she was glad Sgt. Ayuso was charged, she added it also made her nervous, especially if it harms his military career.
“He’s going to lose everything at this point, and he’ll have nothing holding him back,” she said. “That scares me.”
Mrs. Ayuso said she had no intention of returning north.
“Only way I’ll be returning back to the state is if I testify in court,” she said.
Mrs. Bissell, who returned to the area around Thanksgiving, said her daughter still has nightmares from that night, and is afraid of being home.
Distributed by MCT Information Services