Controller Sloane’s bail revoked, sent to jail for “harboring” a cat

County official awaits trial on animal cruelty charges in death of pet dog

1 / 2

Washington County sheriff’s deputies escorted Controller April Sloane from the courthouse after her bond was revoked Wednesday for violating bail conditions while awaiting trial on animal cruelty charges related to starving her dog to death last year.

Mike Jones/Observer-Reporter

2 / 2

April Sloane

For the second time in less than two years, a Washington County select police officer has been sent to county jail.

Controller April Sloane, who is awaiting trial on animal cruelty charges relating to the starvation of her dog last year, was handcuffed and taken to jail on Wednesday morning after a judge revoked her bail for “keeping” the cat while staying at her boyfriend’s North Strabane apartment.

Judge John DiSalle revoked Sloane’s bond during a hearing in Washington County Common Pleas Court after she was accused of violating the terms of her release by being near her boyfriend’s cat after moving into his Park Place apartment in June.

Prosecutors filed a motion to quash July 3 after discovering the animal had been living there for two weeks after she moved in. First Assistant District Attorney Leslie Ridge said during Wednesday’s hearing that having the cat in her presence was a “flagrant violation” of her bond and would “blur the lines” of what the conditions meant.

“She lives at that address and there was an animal there,” Ridge said. “That’s a violation of her bond.”

Sloane, 43, is accused of neglecting and starving her dog Thor, who was found dead in her North Strabane terraced home on Dec. 6, about 10 days after he died. A search of the home by North Strabane police turned up the animal’s remains in a garbage bag placed in the garage after the animal died on Nov. 27. She was arrested Dec. 12 on two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of neglect, but has since been free on $150,000 bail.

Her defense attorney, Louis Emmi, admitted that Sloane lived in the same apartment as the cat. However, he denied that she cared for it or owned it, indicating that she did not believe it violated the terms of her bond, which stated that she could not “keep any animal” until her animal cruelty case was resolved.

“(Sloane) had no control over the animal, no shelter, no care for it,” Emmi said. “Hiding wasn’t what she did.”

Emmi asked Sloane to testify, and she agreed after DiSalle informed her she had the right to remain silent due to her upcoming trial on animal cruelty charges. Sloane said she was never responsible for the cat, which belonged to her boyfriend, Philip Chappel, and that it was an emotional support animal for him and his 71-year-old father, who also lived in the apartment.

“From my perspective, keeping an animal meant that I was the owner and was responsible for feeding it, watering it and taking care of it,” Sloane said.

Sloane had just sold her North Strabane home and was living in a hotel periodically before moving into Chappel’s apartment on June 18. It was not revealed in court how investigators learned there was a cat in the same house where Sloane lived.

Ridge wondered if Sloane had “access” to the cat while living there for two weeks, which she admitted was possible.

“The cat was there, yes,” Sloane said.

Chappel took the stand and said he has owned the cat since 2007 and has lived in the Park Place subdivision on Route 19 since 2017. He told DiSalle it was his cat and that he and his homebound father were caring for it.

“I have a cat,” Chappel said. “That’s my cat.”

After prosecutors filed a motion to revoke bail last week, Chappel said he took steps to have the cat placed elsewhere, and Sloane agreed to cover the costs.

Emmi called the situation a “misunderstanding” and asked the judge to consider a more lenient sentence since the cat lives elsewhere. He asked that if DiSalle changes bail, he change it to a percentage-based bond so she has a better chance of making it.

“Is it right to take away her freedom without looking at all the facts?” Emmi asked.

But DiSalle was unswayed by Emmi’s arguments, including federal case law on whether “holding” an animal constituted taking “control” of it.

“There are two conditions of bond, and she meets one,” DiSalle said, noting that the other is regularly attending mental health evaluations. “(Sloane) admitted for three weeks — up until the discovery — that she was living with a cat. … Those are simple conditions.”

DiSalle then ordered Sloane’s current unsecured bond changed to $150,000 cash bond and sent her back to jail. Sheriff’s deputies immediately handcuffed Sloane in the courtroom and escorted her to a waiting police SUV to be transported to the county jail across the street from the courthouse.

She was free on unsecured bail and continued to work as a county auditor while awaiting trial following her arrest in December. Her trial is scheduled for Sept. 10, after Emmi asked for an extension of the original June date.

Sloane, a Republican who was elected county controller in November 2021 and took office two months later, did not say anything as she was led out of the courthouse. She is up for reelection next year because her term expires in January 2026.

The comptroller’s duties, which handle audits and oversight of county finances, will be transferred to current office staff while Sloane is incarcerated, according to a statement from Commission Chairman Nick Sherman. Sherman, who along with other high-ranking county officials called for Sloane’s resignation after her arrest in December, said they are placing her salary in an escrow account while she is incarcerated.

“It would be unfair to taxpayers to reward such actions with damages,” Sherman said.

County Chief of Staff Daryl Price and Court Clerk Ray Phillips — as well as several animal welfare activists — were among more than a dozen people present at Sloane’s bail revocation hearing.

She is now the second elected official to go to prison in less than two years after former Clerk of the Court Brenda Davis was found guilty of contempt of court by DiSalle in August 2022 and sentenced to 15 days in the Washington County Jail.