A retired Wisconsin state trooper appeared Wednesday in Columbia County Circuit Court, facing felony charges for dumping the bodies of dead cats in a woman’s yard.
Paul Greiner, 73, of Portage, is charged with mistreating animals, five counts of stalking, and a county citation for littering following a series of incidents involving cat carcasses in March and April.
In court, family members waved hats at television news reporters shooting video of the hearing with cell phones. At one time in his 26-year career as a state trooper, Greiner had acted as a court officer in the same court in which he appeared as a defendant. He retired from law enforcement in 1997.
The criminal complaint detailed a years-long conflict between Greiner’s family and the family of Elizabeth Masterson.
The issue began in 2005, according to the complaint, with Michael Greiner driving through the Mastersons’ property to get to the lake, with the issue escalating from what Masterson described as “petty” to finding animals with a “look of fear on their face,” on her property, including a cat hanging from a tree.
The most recent situation was reported March 22, when Masterson reported to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office that she had found dead cats on her property in the town of Lewiston. Three days later the woman reported finding another cat, and on March 26 reported seeing Greiner throwing a cat onto her property.
Masterson located the owner of one of the cats through a lost pet website before posting pictures of the cats to Facebook.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office worked with the Portage Police Department and connected the incident to cats missing from the Dunn Street neighborhood where Greiner lives. Of the nine cats found, three were connected to owners, although it is unknown how many of the cats were house pets, wild or strays.
When a Portage police detective asked Greiner about the cats April 11, the same day a search warrant was executed on his Dunn Street house, Greiner reportedly explained that after finding feathers around his bird feeder, he set conibear traps baited with tuna in a five-gallon pail. Conibear traps are advertised as rotating jaw traps to quickly catch and dispatch wild animals.
Greiner told police he “wanted to eliminate the city of feral cats” and would take the cats to Anacker road and threw them in the ditch. He acknowledged that was in the area of the Mastersons’ home. When asked if he considered using live traps, contacting the Portage police or contacting the Humane Society, Greiner reportedly told the detective he did use live traps at times and would release the animals near Portage Ford on the north end of the city.
In February 2016, Greiner was cited for using a firearm within 100 yards of a building in the same area where he is alleged to have dumped cat carcasses. Masterson’s father said he believed the incident was intended to intimidate the family.
On Wednesday, Court Commissioner Charles Church ordered Greiner to have no contact with the Masterson family or any of their family members, not to possess any animal traps and not to possess any firearms. Greiner was allowed to remain free on a $1,000 signature bond, and is scheduled to next appear in court for an Aug. 1 hearing.
If convicted, Greiner faces a sentence of up to 3 1/2 years in prison for each of the six felony charges.