Cruelty towards pets and animals is unquestionably disturbing. However, animal cruelty is often an early warning sign of other types of violence and violent crimes.
So when more than a dozen cats turned up horribly mutilated in suburbs throughout Washington, police started to fear the worst about the person behind the sickening acts. Now, a special force has been tasked with bringing the person responsible to justice, before the killer targets more than just pets.
A Daily Routine
For the past two years, a Washington woman has spent almost every night brushing and feeding an old outdoor cat named Harley. Saturday, August 4, 2018, was no different. Before getting ready for bed herself, the woman went out and found Harley waiting for her.
That night, the woman fed and brushed Harley as usual. When Harley was finished with his dinner, she brought him over to a heated outdoor cat house, which she had built in her backyard just for him. After saying goodnight, the woman went inside and went up to bed for the night.
A Beloved Friend
“He was about 20 years old. He was deaf,” Kathy Harrigan told Q13 Fox. “He had found a place under a tree in our yard so we took him in. Built him a house and kept him warm over the next couple of winters. There’s no way he would ever have been an indoor cat or we would have brought him inside.”
When Harrigan woke up the next morning, she expected to go downstairs and see Harley waiting at the backdoor for breakfast. However, when she got downstairs, Harley wasn’t standing at the door like he normally would be. At first, Harrigan thought it was strange since the elderly cat appeared for his meals without fail.
The Missing Cat
Harrigan wondered if Harley was still asleep outside in his cat house. Yet when she went outside, she saw that the house was empty. Harrigan was worried about her beloved feline friend but hoped Harley would be back later that day for his meal. Sadly, that never happened.
The Police Arrive
That morning, Harrigan heard a knock at her front door. When she answered, a police officer introduced himself and asked her if she were missing a cat. When Harrigan explained that she hadn’t been able to find Harley, who she’d cared for over the past two years, the officer explained the bad news.
The Bad News
Harley had been found by a neighbor but unfortunately was no longer alive. The officer explained that Harley had been discovered dead on a neighbor’s lawn. To make matters worse, Harley had been sickeningly mutilated and his body was left for everyone to see.
“He wouldn’t have allowed anyone to do that so I don’t know how they got ahold of him,” Harrigan said. According to Erika Johnson, an officer with the Thurston County Animal Services, Harley was cut open from stern to genitals and his spine had been removed.
A Serial Cat Killer
According to Johnson, the police believed that the incision was done using a scalpel. They also explained that Harley’s injuries were exactly the same as six other cats that had been discovered across the state since February, 2018. While they didn’t know who was behind the cat murders, they believed a serial cat killer was responsible.
The Killer’s Modus Operandi
Johnson said the cats that have been discovered all share several similarities in the way they’ve been killed. For that reason, they believe there is only one killer. She added that the cats show up in suburban areas not far from their owners’ homes. All have either been mutilated or have been sliced open. In some cases, the killer has removed and taken the spines of his victims. In other cases, the cats have had their organs removed and placed around their body.
In every case, the cats have all been put out on display for residents to see. “The animals were put on display after their deaths in a very public place,” Johnson told Q13. “That means they were left out in the open for people to find; intentionally.”
A Small Mistake
“This is not normal, and it’s very sick behavior,” Johnson said. In every case, the killer has been extremely careful not to leave behind any evidence that could lead police to him or her. However, according to police, the killer has made a few small mistakes, including leaving a surgical glove near one of the cats’ bodies.
Two Days Later
Two days after Harley turned up mutilated on a neighbor’s lawn, another cat named Ollie was discovered a mile away. According to police, tests revealed that Ollie had been strangled to death before she was cut open and had her spine removed. They also discovered evidence that Ollie fought back. “Ollie fought for her life, using her claws to try to get away,” Johnson said.
The Rampage Continues
Now, police are having Ollie’s claws tested to see if they can find any DNA samples that might lead them to the killer. Since Harley and Ollie were found, several other cats have also turned up dead in suburbs around the state. In total, authorities have found 13 cats that they believe were killed by the serial cat killer. The latest murdered cat was discovered in Lacey, Washington, in early September.
A Disturbing Sight
“This person is a sick, callous disgusting psychopath,” Paul DeTray told KOMO after finding the 12th cat. “To say the least, [it’s] a little gut-wrenching to see somebody’s beloved pet torn apart like that.” According to DeTray, he noticed a swarm of flies and bees and found the cat when he went to see what was attracting so many bugs. “When it actually happens and you find it, that’s a completely different story. It really hits home.”
A Red Flag
Since so many cats have turned up murdered and mutilated, the police have started taking the case seriously. According to officials, there is often a link between animal cruelty and violent and abusive behavior towards humans. The fear is that the serial cat killer may also be harming people or might move on to killing people soon if they haven’t already.
It’s historically been found that people who abuse humans in one way or the other have started out on animals. “I’ve prosecuted a number of psychopaths and killers, and one thing that is shockingly common … is animal abuse,” Steve Fogg, a former King County prosecuting attorney, told KIRO 7.
The Task Force
To find the killer as soon as possible, a 10-person task force has been set up in Thurston County. A former police officer with decades of experience with animal abuse cases has been tasked with leading the team, which also includes a homicide detective. According to officials, the killer faces up to two years in prison for each of his four-legged victims.
Warning the Public
Police still don’t know much about the identity of the killer, so they are suggesting that people keep a close eye on their pets and to keep their pets inside. Pasado’s Safe Haven, anti-cruelty organization and animal sanctuary, is also offering up a $53,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to the killer’s arrest.
Taking Back the Neighborhood
In the wake of the cat murders, local residents have become determined to help police catch the person responsible so that they can be put to justice for what they’ve done. At least two groups have formed to patrol their neighborhoods in the hopes of helping find the killer.