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Demolition begins on High Street apartment building

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Demolition crews did not find the cat that may have been living in the burned apartment building at 239 High St. when they started tearing down the structure Tuesday morning.

The cat’s owners and about 25 people lined up across the street while crews from Independent Commercial Contractors, Lorraine, looked inside the structure for the 11-year-old tabby.

“It’s a cat,” yelled Emma E. Parody, 79, who has insisted her cat, Stripey, has been living inside the building since the May 15 fire. “He’s still there.”

But two members of the construction crew looked where she said she saw it and did not find the cat.

About 20 minutes later, an excavator started tearing the back of the building. Shawn R. McWayne, the city’s code enforcement supervisor, said the demolition could be finished and the material may be carted away by the end of today.

Before the work began, Katherine S. Barkley, an advocate with North Regional Center for Independent Living, said the company was showing more compassion about the situation than the city had.

“They did everything they could,” she said.

The crowd included several representatives from the advocacy group and about 20 curious people from the neighborhood who wanted to know what was happening with Stripey. He was not spotted through the remainder of Tuesday’s work, Mr. McWayne said.

The building was condemned after its owner, Ricky E. Frazier, failed to tell the city what he planned to do about it. Mr. Frazier could not be reached to comment.

Mrs. Parody’s daughter, Sophia Fuhrman, has insisted a family friend has seen the cat several times in the building since the fire. She turned to city officials, the Fire Department, the building’s owner and others to get the cat out, but they failed to help, Ms. Fuhrman said.

On Monday, a representative from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals contacted Mr. McWayne about the situation, he said. He was skeptical about the cat surviving so long in the building without water during such a hot summer.

Ms. Fuhrman, who lived in the High Street building with her son, Kean, 19, felt so strongly about finding Stripey that a week after the fire, she broke a window at the house and was subsequently charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief.

Two days later, Joshua D. Metzler, 25, of 717 State St., was charged with second-degree arson after allegedly confessing to police that he torched the eight-apartment building, sending several tenants fleeing early that morning.

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