A man admitted killing his pet cat, skinning the animal and baking it in his oven, explaining that he intended to prepare it as a meal with onions, according to authorities in Wright County.

Cody A. Mann, 28, of Monticello, was charged Wednesday with two felony counts of animal cruelty and animal torture, following his arrest Monday afternoon at his apartment.

The defendant's father told authorities that Mann has a history of drug abuse and mental illness, the charging document read.

Mann's attorney, Jenny Chaplinski, said Thursday that she's bothered that "this poor man is just being crucified" in online comments about the case, noting that "I've represented people doing more horrible things to other people."

She went to say that "at the end of the day, it's meat. I don't know why there's the outrage about cooking a cat. … Why are we not talking about the mental health system?

"I got a call from CNN," Chaplinski added. "[Legal affairs commentator] Nancy Grace wanted me on her show." Chaplinski declined.

Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Larson said earlier Thursday that Mann "had been researching how to [cook a cat] on the Internet. He wasn't sure how to bake it without going on the Internet."

Since Mann's arrest, Larson said, she has been hearing from people who have been "riled up on both sides" about what is being alleged.

"I've had people ask me what's the difference between butchering a chicken and a cat," she said.

Larson said she didn't know how long the cat had been Mann's pet, but there were food and water dishes for the animal in the apartment, suggesting that "it had been his pet for some length of time."

According to the criminal complaint:

Mann's father called authorities because his son had been making strange comments.

A sheriff's deputy went to Mann's second-floor apartment in the 700 block of 7th Street E. but could not find Mann.

Soon after, the apartment manager contacted law enforcement about a "burning smell" coming from Mann's residence.

The deputy also detected smoke and an odor of burning hair coming from the apartment. The deputy went inside and met up with Mann, who admitted without hesitation to killing his cat, skinning it and baking it in the oven.

The cat was discovered in the oven. In the bathtub was evidence of where the cat had been killed: red smear marks, loose hair and a steak knife.

Mann told the deputy he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, explaining that he cut the cat's throat and skinned it because wanted to prepare his pet with onions for a meal. The cat's skin and entrails were found in the freezer.

Upon apprehension, Mann was taken to Monticello Hospital for a mental evaluation and then to jail for booking.

Mann's criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for marijuana possession, domestic assault and disorderly conduct.

For the past 10 months, Mann has been subject to court-supervised civil commitment in Stearns County for mental illness and chemical dependency. Until his arrest Monday, he had been living on his own under a provisional discharge from commitment.

Stearns County officials now have him in custody, in light of this week's charges.

Chaplinski said Mann has yet to be required to enter a plea. She said her initial advice would be from him to plead not guilty, pointing to his psychological history and the fact that he had not been taking his medication for some time.

"It would be bad lawyering if I didn't explore that he was mentally incapable to understand what was right or wrong," Chaplinski said. "This isn't something that someone wakes up in the morning and wants to do."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482