Police: Man fatally shot 72-year-old woman in face during argument over feeding feral cats

Police: Man fatally shot 72-year-old woman in face during argument over feeding feral cats
Sean Eric Malahy, 49, of Lexington, South Carolina, is accused of shooting Judy Dyanne Burnett, 72, of Gilbert, on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, after they got into an argument about feeding feral cats behind a shopping center. Both were cat lovers known for feeding strays in the area, authorities said. (Lexington Police Department, Nadiah Nasir/EyeEm via Getty Images)

LEXINGTON, S.C. — A South Carolina man is charged with murder after an argument over the feeding of feral cats behind a shopping center turned deadly Thursday.

Sean Eric Malahy, 49, of Lexington, is accused of shooting Judy Dyanne Burnett, 72, of Gilbert, in the face, according to Lexington police officials. Along with the murder charge, Malahy faces a charge of possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

He remained in the Lexington County Jail Friday afternoon.

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Lexington police Chief Terrence Green said that officers were called around 5:40 p.m. Thursday to the area of the fence line behind the Town Square shopping center on the report of a shooting. When they arrived, they found Burnett suffering from a gunshot wound to the face.

“Officers immediately began rendering aid until Lexington County EMS arrived,” Green said in a statement. “Judy Burnett died while being transported to the hospital.”

Sean Eric Malahy, 49, of Lexington, S.C., is accused of shooting Judy Dyanne Burnett, 72, of Gilbert, on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, near the fence, right, behind the Town Square shopping center in Lexington, pictured in Street View images. The shooting took place when the pair got into an argument about feeding feral cats behind the center.
Sean Eric Malahy, 49, of Lexington, S.C., is accused of shooting Judy Dyanne Burnett, 72, of Gilbert, on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, near the fence, right, behind the Town Square shopping center in Lexington, pictured in Street View images. The shooting took place when the pair got into an argument about feeding feral cats behind the center. (Google)

Malahy, who remained at the scene with a handgun, was taken into custody. He declined to give detectives a statement.

“Prior to the shooting incident, Judy Burnett had gotten into an argument about feeding feral cats with a witness who was with Sean Malahy,” Green said. “Sean Malahy engaged in the argument with Judy Burnett, which turned into a physical fight.

“During this altercation, Sean Malahy shot Judy Burnett.”

Investigators learned that Malahy and Burnett, who both were involved in feeding the stray cats that lived behind the businesses along West Main Street, had been feuding for a number of years about the feeding, trapping and releasing of the animals, Green said. The feud boiled over Thursday night.

Burnett was known for years for feeding the stray cats behind businesses in Lexington, according to several Facebook comments.

Malahy’s social media posts indicate he is also an avid lover of cats. A Facebook post he shared the morning of the shooting stated, “If you’re not happy single, you won’t be happy married.”

“Happiness comes from cats, not relationships.”

One of Malahy’s friends commented on his profile photo, writing that Malahy, who is wearing sunglasses and a serious expression on his face, “look(s) like a hitman.”

“I have a feeling that any man found purposefully hurting cats in your town would go randomly missing,” the friend wrote.

The comment was followed by three laughing emojis.

Malahy responded with a political cartoon that appears to depict Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse and Black Lives Matter protesters.

“Wherever there are fascists, there is resistance,” the cartoon reads.

The comments on the thread were written in September, less than three months before Burnett’s shooting.