DELAWARE – It was just a half hour into his interview with police when Anthony Appolonia broke down, according to the chief investigator on the case.
Appolonia stated he was sorry. He went on to beg authorities not to be mad. And then, in gruesome detail, he described just how he had tortured and killed 19 kittens and cats he adopted all through newspaper ads in just two months.
He explained that he broke their bones, stomped on them, threw them against walls and made them suffer for minutes or hours. Then he admitted that he drowned them, the kittens in the toilet, the larger cats in the bathtub.
All because he believed they no longer liked him, he said.
Back on Dec. 4, 2008, the Monmouth County man was sentenced to five years in prison, which is one of the harshest animal cruelty punishments in state history.
Now, more than three years after his release, the 58-year-old Appolonia is living in Delaware.
He is once again adopting cats he is not able to account for according to four people who say they unwittingly gave cats to him.
Appolonia, using his own name and various aliases, accepted at least five cats in just the past 10 months after responding to Craigslist advertisements offering free or low-cost kittens and cats, the previous owners explained NJ Advance Media.
The cats are now absolutely nowhere to be found. The former owners of these cats now suspect they are dead.
In a two-hour interview in his Dover, Del., townhouse, Appolonia completely denied accepting cats, contending animal rights activists angry about his previous killing spree are out to frame him. At the time of the interview, which was conducted July 7, there were no cats in the home.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” he stated. “I did the crime. I did the time. If people say they gave me cats, they’re fabricating it. They’re (expletive) liars.”
He went on to explain that he has been under the care of a psychologist for a “small mental problem” since his release and that the psychologist, whom he did not identify, “knows I haven’t done anything.”
The people who told NJ Advance Media they gave Appolonia cats claim they do not know one another and had no motivation to speak out other than to find justice for their pets.
All are claiming they learned of his criminal history in January when warnings about Appolonia were posted to Craigslist and Facebook.
“I bawled like a baby when I learned about his past,” stated Tammy Elliott, 48, a Lincoln, Del., resident who said she delivered a kitten to Appolonia’s townhouse, a short distance from Dover Air Force Base, in October. “It still haunts me.”
Those interviewed provided the phone numbers from which they said Appolonia called. All match numbers have linked to him in public records.
They also forwarded three emails in which a person who was seeking cats introduces himself as Tony Appolonia or Michael Racanelli. The emails contain both Appolonia’s home and cell numbers. Appolonia has extended family members with the last name Racanelli, which public records do show.
The number of cats allegedly given to Appolonia may be higher.
A Wilmington, Del., woman who said she spurned his request for a cat after searching his name on the internet last November went on to warn other Craigslist users about him.
The woman, whose name is Jessica Riley, explained that two people quickly replied to her, saying they had given Appolonia a total of three kittens. Those who emailed Riley were not able to be reached and Craigslist email addresses are no longer functional once a post is deleted or expires.
Others told NJ Advance Media Appolonia had called them in search of cats as recently as June, this time using just the name “Steve,” from one of the phone numbers connected to Appolonia through public records. Appolonia actually does have a brother named Stephen.
The people did not give the cats over to him, either because they thought him odd or because they received some kind of a warning about him after placing the ads, they said.
Stephen Appolonia, a Colts Neck resident, has declined to comment on the allegations against his brother.
“We really have no contact with him,” he stated.