UPDATE: Twenty-one-year-old Cayden Melia, the suspect behind Evi the bobcat's escape, has been cited and charged with Vandalism/malicious mischief and criminal trespassing.

According to the affidavit, Melia says he broke the gate to the area with a rock and then broke the other gate where the Evi was in.

He then stated he went inside and was throwing a ball with the cat, and that is when the bobcat escaped.

Melia told police that he tried to get the cat back inside the cage, but he was unable to. 

Melia is set to appear in court on August 6th. 

The nature center says Evi is recovering, gaining some weight and learning to trust again.


PREVIOUS STORY: One of the suspects behind the escape of a bobcat from a local nature center told police it was a 'drunken mistake,' according to Mark McKnight, president of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center.

One of the suspects, 21-year-old Cayden Melia, has not turned himself yet. A spokesperson for the police department says he has until July 14 to do so.

McKnight says a Chattanooga investigator called him Monday saying Melia confessed. It happened not long after Evi returned home.

“It is nice to know who did this and to have an actual story behind it,” McKnight said.

McKnight says the theory that Cayden Melia arrived at the center by kayak, jumped the fence and broke into the enclosures with a rock still stands, but he says Melia told police he did not intend to hurt any animals.

“I mean it sounds like it was more dumb than malicious,” McKnight said.

The 21-year-old was cited in lieu of an arrest for vandalism and criminal trespassing.

But he didn’t act alone.

“He apparently did not name the other person that was with him so there's still another person out there that we would like to see brought to justice,” McKnight explained.

As Evi readjusts to her permanent home at the center and regains her strength, McKnight says they hope to use what happened as an example and caution to the public.

“The underlying message is that it's not okay to endanger an animals welfare,” he said. “Our community and our members and supporters really take this seriously and the work that we're doing is important.”

McKnight says they are rewarding the tipster who came forward and helped find Evi. He says that person will be given $500.