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PETA offers reward of up to $5,000 for help in catching cat killer

PETA is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction on cruelty charges of the person responsible for restraining, beating, and running over a cat whose body was found in the parking lot of the Appalachian Funeral Home on Sunday.

Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter Director Tammy Davis said she also had $500 in local donations for a reward as of Thursday morning.

The cat’s body wasn’t in the parking lot when a funeral home worker arrived at 10:30 a.m., but the employee discovered the cat at around 1 p.m. and called the police. Someone had bound the male orange-and-white cat’s rear legs with duct tape and inflicted severe head trauma, possibly with a screwdriver that was found nearby, and bloody tire tracks indicate that his head was run over.

In a Thursday morning news release, PETA said it is hoping for help from the public to solve the case “before other cats are hurt or killed.”

“This cat should have been safe indoors with a loving family and instead endured a terrifying and agonizing death at the hands of someone who must be caught before hurting anyone else,” said PETA Vice President Colleen O’Brien. “PETA urges anyone with information to come forward — and possibly save a life.”

PETA notes that some people consider free-roaming cats to be “pests.”

“Across the country, these cats are shot, poisoned, and taken by angry residents. They’re also mutilated, drowned, beaten, set on fire, used in ritual sacrifice, or used by dogfighters as ‘bait,’ ” according to PETA.

“Cats can live happily indoors and should be given opportunities to explore the outdoors only under the watchful eyes of their guardians.”

Anyone with tips should call the Washington County Johnson City Animal Shelter at 423-926-8769 or the Johnson City Police Department at 423-434-6000.

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Johnson City board maintains capacity limit at Haven of Mercy

As city staff review sealed drawings from an architect outlining repairs, the Haven of Mercy homeless shelter will continue to operate at a reduced capacity of at most 35 residents.

Members of the Johnson City Board of Dwelling Standards voted 3-1 Thursday to continue consideration of the building at 123 W. Millard St. to their May meeting. Member Dave Jenny voted in opposition, and Jennifer Hyder abstained.

“There is work going on on the plans as requested,” said Vice Chair Gwen Hunter, explaining her motion to continue. “That’s been progress, and we’ve really not been given any new information.”

In January, the board found that conditions exist at the shelter that increase the risk of fire and injury and ordered the building repaired.

Board members also want to receive a progress update at their May meeting and for staff to ensure the shelter is continuing to follow the limit set on capacity, which is roughly half of what the shelter’s occupancy was in January.

“I have no reason to believe that there’s anything going on that shouldn’t be going on,” Hunter said, “but it’s incumbent on us to be sure that properties are as safe as possible while the progress is being made.”

City staff in the building division are currently reviewing a renovation permit from the homeless shelter.

Development Services Manager Dave McClelland said staff reviewed the architectural plans and had several comments, which is common for this process. He estimates that it could be at least a month before permits are pulled, which must be done before repairs can take place.

“I’m very happy to get the drawings,” McClelland said. “I’m happy they put in the work to generate the drawings. I’m glad that they’re addressing the issues that are there, and this process is absolutely typical for anything that needs to be repaired. They’re going through the steps they need to.”

Board members also asked if they could order staff to verify that the shelter was continuing to refrain from cooking in its kitchen, but that was an administrative order McClelland made in September and it does not fall under the board’s purview.

During its meeting in January, the board ordered that the homeless shelter temporarily close while the owner conducted repairs. Among other violations, a closure order issued by the city said permits are needed for a kitchen hood, an electrical sub-panel behind the kitchen and interior electrical issues in the basement and throughout the building.

After a legal tug-of-war with the property owner, the board ultimately opted to rescind its order to vacate in February and heard testimony from shelter residents during a called meeting on March 11. The board continued the issue to a meeting on March 25, during which they set capacity limits on the building. They continued it again to their meeting Thursday so they could get another progress update.

The Haven of Mercy’s architect, Carl Gutschow, was unable to attend the meeting Thursday, but according to an affidavit shared by the shelter’s attorneys, he maintains that the necessary repairs can be made while residents stay at the building.

The shelter’s attorneys, Amber Floyd Lee and Devon Muse, are concerned the board isn’t giving them the platform to object or present evidence and that the board is taking “unorthodox” steps to monitor and inspect the Haven.

City Staff Attorney Sunny Sandos said it’s proper for members to ask staff to check that the board’s orders are being complied with. She added that board meetings aren’t courtrooms — they follow Robert’s Rules of Order.

Woman convicted on federal economic espionage charges

GREENEVILLE — Federal jurors have convicted a woman of stealing nearly $120 million worth of trade secret information from Eastman Chemical Co. and several other chemical and coating companies.

The conviction came Friday after a 12-day trial in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.

Dr. Xiaorong You, also known as Shannon You, 59, of Lansing, Michigan, was convicted of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to steal trade secrets, possession of stolen trade secrets, economic espionage and wire fraud.

You is scheduled for sentencing Nov 1.

The trade secrets stolen belonged to multiple owners and cost an estimated $119,600,000 to develop, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to court records, the stolen information was related to formulations for bisphenol-A-free, or BPA-free, coatings.

What is bisphenol-A?

Until recently, bisphenol-A, or BPA, was used to coat the inside of cans and other food and beverage containers to help minimize flavor loss and prevent the container from corroding or reacting with the food or beverage contained within.

However, due to the potential for BPA to be harmful to human health, companies began searching for BPA-free alternatives.

Background information

According to federal prosecutors, from December 2012 through August 2017, You was employed as principal engineer for global research at Coca-Cola, which had agreements with numerous companies to conduct research and development, testing, analysis and review of various BPA-free technologies.

Due to her extensive education and experience with these coating technologies, You was one of a limited number of employees with access to the trade secret information.

Court records state that from September 2017 through June 2018, You was employed as a packaging application development manager for Eastman, where she was one of a limited number of employees with access to trade secret information.

Evidence offered during the trial showed You stole the trade secrets from Eastman and Coca-Cola for the purpose of establishing a global BPA-free coating manufacturer in China with a Chinese chemical company called the Weihai Jinhong Group.