Welcome to Tell-Tale Crimes, the crime column of the Quaker Campus Newspaper. A new addition to the QC, Tell-Tale Crimes will aim to provide a look at both local and national crimes and cases that are sometimes interesting, sometimes relevant, and sometimes both, from the perspective of a true crime enthusiast. Be forewarned, the pieces published in this column will sometimes contain descriptions of violent crimes or crime scenes. Thank you for reading.
Thurston County, home to Olympia, the idyllic state capitol of Washington, is peaceful. A Washington native, I have visited several times whether to pass through or to see my grandparents at their farm, which almost touches the chilly beaches of Puget Sound. You can drive past rolling farmland or bustling towns and cities and still get the same sense of friendly, hard-working people looking to make something of themselves. It is a quiet center to a beautiful place.
Thurston County also has a cat killer.
Since October of last year, 13 cats have been killed and mutilated in Thurston County. This has led to a six-member taskforce of veteran detectives which extends across the county. If a cat is found, they drop everything to go to the crime scene. According to Q13Fox, the task force has come to believe that the frequency of the killings has increased. Where originally the killings were over the span of months, the cooling-off period has shrunk to a manner of days between the killings. All of the bodies found have been severely mutilated, with 7 of the 13 cats following the same modus operandi: the cats are cut open with a scalpel or sharp instrument, internal organs are either partially or fully removed, their spine is then removed, and the remains are placed in public to be discovered, usually within proximity of the owners according to Q13Fox, with several sources using the word “ripped” instead of removed when referring to the spine.
Officer Erika Johnson, an animal cruelty investigator that is currently working on the case, has stated that the mutilation was done with an almost surgical precision, and told Q13Fox that she believes that the killer is motivated “by anger, control. There’s maybe a little bit of interest here to see how everything works but they are also putting these animals out on display for everybody to find. So, I think it is also wanting to see a reaction.” Johnson also spoke with The Herald, saying that while they currently have no concrete leads there is a list of 25 to 30 suspects that callers to the tip hotline have identified.
One victim, a twenty-year-old cat named Harley, was found in the yard of a neighbor to the couple who took care of him. Harley was a street cat who came to live on the property of Kathy Harrigan and her husband Sam Lewis after they found him emaciated and starving. Harley never took to indoors; however, he never strayed from the property and never let anyone pet him besides Harrigan according to The Herald. Harley’s mutilated body was found on Aug. 5. Harrington, speaking to The Herald, detailed the current mood of the area, saying that: “This has been a very close community. I haven’t experienced this kind of paranoia in 20 years.”
The detectives on the case have also considered the fact that some particularly prolific serial killers, such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, had histories of animal abuse. One sociologist, Clifton Flynn, offered a possible profile to The Herald of the culprit with this consideration in mind: “This is most likely a male. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a teenager, or up to the early 30s; from a working-class background, who very well could have been bullied as a child, who probably had witnessed animals being abused.” Clifton is a provost and sociology professor, and wrote a paper titled “Why family professionals can no longer ignore violence toward animals.”
This case is disturbing to say the least and has yet to be solved. While doing my own research, I found that some of the owners swore that their cats rarely, if ever, left the property. Because of this, I get the overwhelming sense that the suspect is someone who is only confident when they are not being watched. Crimes of this nature and frequency would require someone familiar with the area and nondescript enough to watch without being noticed and strike without being seen. A shrouded figure who can silently make their way onto a lawn and scoop a cat up without a sound. Whoever they are, they seem to have the mind of a prowler, moving around quietly, and waiting for the perfect moment. It is concerning that someone has taken to mutilating these cats so viciously and frequently, and it is even more concerning that they have yet to be caught. As the detectives have already pointed out, animal abuse is one of the major precursors to becoming a serial killer. It would not be the first one from Washington state.
This phenomenon, however brutal, is not unique to the Northwest. According to Fox News, a cat’s body parts were found scattered across a Sacramento neighborhood in October of last year. The mutilations did not continue, thankfully; however, it displays a disturbing revelation that we all must come to eventually: Something in the mind fosters a darkness that can eventually break through, and when it does, some people can not stop it.
Continued coverage will be provided with further breaks in the case.