By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun June 1, 2012 p>The SPCA has enlisted the help of an American animal crime scene expert and is considering using tracking dogs to hunt down the person, or persons, responsible for a series of cat mutilations in Maple Ridge as concern grows that the perpetrator could be “warming up” to killing humans.
SPCA spokeswoman Lorie Chortyk said forensic veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck of Georgia, will offer guidance in the necropsies of 25 dismembered cats found in Maple Ridge during in the past year.
The slayings are particularly disturbing since history shows several examples of serial killers, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and David Berkowitz, who tortured animals before moving on to people.
The necropsies, which are underway, will identify how the cats were killed and determine whether there’s DNA from the suspect on the animal corpses, said Chortyk.
The cats were found within a 15-block radius around 217th Avenue and 230th Street between Lougheed Highway and Dewdney Trunk Road. Most had their heads chopped off, or their bodies slit from throat to tail with a sharp object, she said. The remains were placed where the owners or passersby could find them.
A head, leg, and some fur was found outside Harry Hooge elementary school, while a kitten’s head was left on an owner’s front lawn and a tail of a cat placed under a missing poster of the feline. The incidents occurred in batches, with the first last June, followed by others in November, March and May.
“The people who are doing this are making a point to leave the bodies where they will be found and where they will cause the most distress to people,” Chortyk said.
She acknowledged some cats may have been killed by coyotes, but in most cases, the dismemberment is “too precise to be done by an animal.”
The culprit, she said, could be someone with a mental illness, teenagers committing a prank, or someone performing a cultural ritual.
It could also be a future serial killer.
Rob Gordon, a criminologist with Simon Fraser University, cited the case of Luka Magnotta, a 29-year-old Canadian porn actor suspected of killing and dismembering Jun Lin, 33, of China, and sending his body parts through the mail.
Like Dahmer, Bundy and Berkowitz, Magnotta is also suspected of tormenting animals.
Animal rights activists say Magnotta was allegedly seen placing two kittens in a plastic bag and then vacuuming the air out, suffocating them, in a 2010 video. Two more videos, also depicting the torture and killing of cats, have also been linked to the suspected killer.
“Certainly there is a link between the individual who is engaging in murder, sometimes serial murders, and early experimentation with an animal,” Gordon said. “It almost suggests killing animals helps them overcome the repulsion of killing because they can easily progress to human targets.
“I’m not suggesting that’s what’s happening here but it’s possible it’s somebody who is warming up.”
Cats are often a target for mutilations, Gordon said, along with mice or snakes because they don’t fight back. Dogs, especially bigger ones, tend to be less cooperative.
Gordon noted most killers have had a difficult upbringing, while others are motivated by sexual interest. “To be quite honest we don’t fully understand their wiring; they’re troubled individuals, obviously.”
He noted investigators must rely on the patterns of behaviour — the nature of the killing and where the corpses are being placed — to figure out what’s causing the person to kill. If somebody is killing is for a symbolic reason, he added, they will position their corpses in a certain way so they can be found, sending a clear message.
“[The Maple Ridge killer] is dismembering the cats as opposed to just killing them,” he said. “Somebody annoyed by cats in a neighbourhood is going to find an easier way of doing it, such as poisoning them.”
Catching a cat-mutilator is difficult. Police and the SPCA are relying on the public to report anything suspicious, such as people loitering, carrying bags or leaving items in public spaces. Something that may not have seemed significant could hold huge clues, the SPCA’s Chortyk said.
“These things are happening during the day,” she said. “Somebody must have seen something.”
Chortyk said the SPCA has received some good leads from the public and is getting closer to releasing a profile of the suspect.
But, she noted, pet owners should remain on guard and keep cats indoors, not only in Maple Ridge but also in Langley’s Brookswood area where four cats were mutilated during the past year.
“Every cat that’s out there right now is a target,” she said.
In 2010, at least seven cats were found cut in half in White Rock, Surrey and Langley.