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Kern County Animal Control

Kern County Animal Control officers served a search warrant at this property in the 900 block of Canyon Drive in Lebec. This photo was provided by Kern County Animal Control.

A Tehachapi Unified School District employee who allegedly gassed three cats in a fabricated kill box and a woman accused of abandoning 25 cats and a dog in a trash-strewn home in Lebec have been arrested by Kern County Animal Services officers on animal cruelty charges.

Robert Hutton, a school maintenance worker, was arrested at 11:40 a.m. March 31 at Monroe High School in Tehachapi after he told a Kern County Animal Services officer that he had killed three cats.

Animal Control officials and the Kern County District Attorney's Office refused to release details of Hutton's arrest last week, saying only that he had been arrested on animal cruelty charges.

But repeated requests for information from The Californian prompted the Kern County Counsel's office to release a brief statement about the circumstances of the arrest Friday.

"Mr. Hutton was placed under arrest after informing an Animal Control officer that he had captured three cats in a trap, placed them each in a constructed chamber, and euthanized them using a carbon dioxide gas canister," wrote Deputy County Counsel Devin Brown.

The Tehachapi News reported, quoting TUSD Board of Trustees President Mary Graham, that Hutton had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by a representative from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

Meanwhile, Debra Hjelm was arrested Thursday after Kern County Animal Services officers found 25 cats and one dog living in inhumane conditions in the trash-filled yard of a home on Canyon Drive in Lebec.

Animal Services officers, according to a press release, served a search warrant on the home in the 900 block of Canyon Drive on April 1 and discovered the state of the property.

The home, according to reports, appeared to be abandoned.

Officers worked over the past nine days to capture the animals and remove them from the property.

While they were there Thursday, Hjelm arrived on the property and was arrested.

The investigation of the incident is ongoing and officers are still working to remove the remaining animals.