Man Charged With Letting Bobcat Out Of Nature Preserve Reports To Jail; Has 1st Court Appearance Aug. 6

Thursday, July 11, 2019
Cayden Melia
Cayden Melia

A man charged with letting a bobcat out of the Reflection Riding nature preserve was booked at the Hamilton County Jail on a citation on Wednesday.

Cayden Melia, 21, will have his first court appearance on Aug. 6 before General Sessions Court Judge Alex McVeagh.

The bobcat Evi returned to her cage a week after the June 11 late-night incident after numerous spottings on the side of Lookout Mountain.

Reflection Riding received over $4,000 from the public toward the cost of the search.

Police said Reflection Riding officials said they had a person come forward who said the suspect was possibily Cayden Melia. A city officer went to his home in North Chattanooga, read him his Miranda rights, and took a statement.

Melia said he was drinking alcohol that night and went kayaking on Lookout Creek. He said he got out at Reflection Riding and walked to the area where the bobcat and eagle are kept in cages. He said he broke the gate to their enclosure with a rock, then broke the bobcat cage gate.

He said he went inside the bobcat area "and was throwing a ball with the cat and then the bobcat escaped. He stated that he tried to get the cat back inside the cage, but couldn't so he left back to his kayak."

Melia, who is originally from Dallas, Tex., said he knew he was in an area that was off limits.

Police concluded there was no proof that Melia was trying to steal the bobcat.

He was charged with vandalism and criminal trespassing.


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