June 17th, 2009
06:34 PM ET

A Pet Serial Killer?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/06/17/florida.cat.killings/art.ty.jpg caption="Tyler Weinman, 18, is under house arrest, accused of killing 19 pet cats in Miami, Florida."]

Alyssa Caplan
AC360° Staffer

Who or what is behind a spree that has left 18 pet cats gruesomely mutilated and seemingly showcased for their devastated owners? Miami-Dade police have been trying to answer this question and unravel the mystery that has gripped, and at times seemed to terrorize, the Miami towns of Cutler & Palmetto Bay over the last month where police and pet owners began discovering disfigured cats May 13th. Was a serial killer on the loose? Was this some sort of sick prank? The work of a wild animal? Gang initiation or a cult? Who or what might be the next victim?

On Sunday, police announced they had made an arrest. Palmetto High school senior Tyler Hayes Weinman was taken in to custody and charged with 19 counts of Animal cruelty, 4 counts of Burglary, and 19 counts of Improper Disposal of a Dead Animal. Weinman could face a maximum of 158 years in state prison if convicted on all counts, said Terry Shavez, spokeswoman for the state attorney's office. Find more background on the arrest and Weinman, here.

A judge ordered Weinman released today during a brief hearing after deemed "competent" following psychological testing. Weinman will return home fitted with an electronic monitoring device until he is summoned to appear for his next hearing July 6.

Weinman's family and some friends have rallied to his support that they absolutely have the wrong guy. His attorney, David Macey, alleges his client is innocent. "It's trial by ambush," Macey said. "It's anything goes so that they can have a body, a warm body, to solve these cat killings. My heart and my sympathy goes out to the owners of these pets, but unfortunately, it won't provide them any relief that Tyler's in custody. Tyler is innocent."

Left puzzled over this bizarre crime, we reached out to Fmr. FBI profiler Candice DeLong to help make sense of what type of person might be motivated to go on a cat killing spree, and why?

Q & A with Candice DeLong
Host of the Discovery Channel Series Deadly Woman, former FBI Profiler and Psychiatric Nurse

Caplan: Candice, when you first heard about these pet cats showing up on their owners lawns mutilated, what went through your mind?

DeLong: The 1st time I heard about this, I wondered if a wild animal was doing it. Had a similar case in San Jose. Cats were being found cut in half, their guts were found on top of bushes. Animal control came in and said it wasn’t a case of animal attacks. So we started investigating possible leads and had a few suspects. Then it all came apart one day when a lady saw a coyote walk away in her back yard with her cat in its mouth. Animal control came back in, looked at their autopsy reports again and realized that the killings were actually animal related. Listen, I don’t know what kind of wild animals are roaming around that part of Florida but the police allege that there is probable cause for an arrest.

Caplan: If these cats were not killed by another animal(s) but at human hand as the prosecution alleges, what does this crime say to you?

DeLong: The thing that stands out to me the most is the number of cat mutilations/fatalities being tied to this person. 18. Killing one cat is not a good sign, but you could maybe write it off as some sort of experimentation. Hopefully it ended with the person feeling disgusted and thinking it was a horrible, horrific idea. But 18 times? There is a level of premeditation here which is far beyond an accident or experimentation.

Caplan: Why and who would go on a cat killing spree?

DeLong: This behavior is a very serious indicator of a troubled person…either someone is suffering from a severe mental illness like schizophrenia and they’re doing it for some delusional reason (like they believe the cat is the devil), in which case they appear to be an unstable person to the outside world, and are not able to commit crimes without getting caught fairly quickly. Or possibly they’re a sadistic killer in training and they’re acting out a fantasy, working up to and practicing what they want to do humans. Cats actually are the MOST frequently abused/mutilated animals by potential serial killers. Why? Well, one killer told me," I hate them...they are just like women!. They sneak around, they are quiet and conniving, they act like they don't need you, and they need to be dead!" If I was looking for a suspect, I’d be looking for a male. This is a crime about power; control, rage, and possibly sadism (sexual control). Another possibility is that it was some kind of sick joke or game to someone, but if you think it’s funny, that says something is horribly wrong with the person as well. The person who did this is dangerous to society. Whatever the motivation driving the behavior, the ability to stalk and kill 18 pet cats shows a complete lack of empathy, judgment and regard for the consequences of their actions. Whether or not you like cats, even if you detest them, healthy people are still able to understand the pain they would be inflicting on the family to which they belong.

Caplan: Candice, one of our affiliate stations in Florida is reporting that Detectives believe Weinman was the ringleader of a group committing these crimes. Police would not comment further on other possible suspects and will only confirm one arrest at this point. Does this change the dynamic of the crime if it’s a group, vs. a solo perpetrator?

DeLong: It’s still horribly disturbing but it’s not AS disturbing as the profile of someone acting alone. People, especially teenagers, will do things in a group that they’d never do alone. One of the things that concerns me as a profiler, whosever idea it was, what the hell were they thinking? The fact that someone came up with this idea gives great insight in to their psyche regardless. This is not a typical prank at all. An average kid would not come up with an idea like this. This is not taking a bat to someone’s mailbox, or tp-ing someone’s elm tree. Anyone dismissing the severity of killing and mutilating a small, helpless animal does not understand human nature as I do. Shows a tremendous lack of empathy. This is a very bad behavior. It’s a predictor of future bad things to come.

Caplan: If these crimes were committed by a group, does the so called “ringleader” of the crime, have a different pathology than the other participants?

DeLong: The most dangerous person in a pack is the leader. Pretty much everyone else is a following to some degree. They might not be in to the crime that much, but don’t want to be seen as a loser. Regardless of their involvement, all of these kids should be punished and subject to court ordered mental health care. They need to be assessed by someone very familiar with sociopathy and sadism.

Thanks Candice.

Further Reading:

And a bit of the otherside. The man who thinks this is too much ado about nothing.

Americans Sure Love Their Pets-Humane Society Statistics on cat and dog ownership.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Alyssa Caplan • Crime & Punishment
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    So when this guy or guys gets past his cat killing phase, what next? Small, helpless children?

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    July 6, 2009 at 8:46 pm |
  2. Pat

    Michael Vicks was locked up and it was never proved that he killed any dogs. Why is this animal under house arrest. If he is allowed to go free, he will just move on to torturing and mudering humans.

    July 6, 2009 at 10:17 am |
  3. Joe

    I don't like cats, they are creepy furry creatures with snake eyes. Really look into there eyes for a bit. But to do some of the things mentioned is kinda weird and horrible to do to someone else. .

    June 22, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  4. Muriel

    This young man has no conscience, no empathy for living creatures, human or mammal. He won't get better because no one can give him a conscience....

    He will escalate to torturing and killing human beings in time.

    I don't know what the answer is, but beware!

    June 22, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  5. Chester and Penelope - Boston

    Thank you for exposing such cruelty to our animal friends and preventing the very real likelihood of future crimes against humanity.

    June 19, 2009 at 8:51 pm |
  6. MM in Toronto

    Has anyone bothered to look up Unresolved, Serial Cat Mutilaiton Pandemics and/or High-Strangeness Florida Cat Mutilations? Do you appreciate this very same 'thing' happened in Destin FLA and Gulf Breeze FLA.

    Destin had upwarards of 50 cats and dogs mutilated. Ya'll jumpin the gun there people. Kid might well be innocent There's something strange goin on arounds here.

    Also, before I buy into the dog-pack hypothesis as advanced for the concurrent Lauderhill mutilation spree (13 cats) – I need to see CSI tests showing presence of dog saliva on cat remains. Puncture wounds in-and-of -themselves are insuffficient to draw a predatory-attack conclusion. Show me the test results!

    June 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  7. Michelle D . Fonthill. Ont

    What a horrible story i hope they lock him up in jail forever .

    June 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  8. Kristin

    As disturbing as this article is, it's certainyl great reporting as you may have saved us from a potential serial killer! Like so many previous posts replied a child killing an animal is never a good sign for this persons future & really outright dangerous. I feel terrible for these poor cats & their owners, but with your good reporting hopefully this boy will get the help he so desperately needs. Great work, Alyssa Caplan!

    June 18, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  9. Melissa

    This is really horrifying. I hope he goes away for a long time.

    June 18, 2009 at 10:27 am |
  10. Jean

    If this boy is guilty he should receive the maximum punishment allowed by law. He should be imprisoned through his college years, throught his career years, through his family creating years. He needs to pay severely for the crimes he has committed. He maliciously took 18 lives! A few years in prison would be a slap on the wrist!

    June 18, 2009 at 10:26 am |
  11. Jane Doe

    I live in the town of Palmetto Bay. Tyler Weinman took an anatomy class at Palmetto High School in which he dissected a cat. This class was not part of a program that had a specific goal like training students be veterinary technicians. When students dissect animals in high school anatomy classes are they being sent a message that those animals don't matter or that it's OK to abuse them?

    Detectives found an assortment of knives and cutting instruments in Weinman's room. Prosecutors are still waiting to learn if they can match DNA from a dead cat to possible blood on a knife. Otherwise, the evidence against Weinman seems to be circumstantial.

    June 18, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  12. karen

    This kid needs alot of mental counseling. This is the type of behavior that lead many to become serial killers..When killing & torturing animals doesn't fill his need anymore, he will more than likely move on to people..He will probably start with young kids who can not defend for themselves and/or can be easily manipulated or coerced. When he becomes older, more stronger, he will move on to women and probably younger men...
    Sadly, our legal system will slap him on the wrist and let him go with little or no jail time..and little or no mental counseling...I think we will possibly read of this kid again in the future..God help him because our legal system won't...

    June 18, 2009 at 10:07 am |
  13. MM in Toronto

    Investigate "Unresolved Serial Cat Mutilation Pandemics" and "high-strangeness florida cat mutilations" and "mysterious half cats". Something is way-out-of-joint in Cat Land.

    June 18, 2009 at 6:23 am |
  14. RW

    Killing of cats / mutilating them = a seriously demented criminal act.
    People passing judgement = a seriosly demented socially irresponsible act.

    If he is found guilty then I say he really needs some counselling rather than jail time. If not, then I'd say we get off his back and let him live.

    I am not from the US (and I am sure I am going to hear some vile remarks about this), but my intent is not to rile anyone, but to state my opinion.

    I really admire the legal system and the society in US (and other developed countries) that not only uphold human rights, but animal rights in almost equal fervor. Being an animal lover, I wish we had such laws in my country too. It would definitely save a lot of animals and save me the trouble of arguing or even fighting with people ill-treating animals.

    But, what I find really funny is that so much hype is given to this news. I happended to stumble upon this article on my way to find AC's twitter id and couldn't stop lauging at terms like "cat serial killer", "called in a former FBI profiler (for this case?)" and "ringleader of 'cat killer' group"...

    Couldn't help but draw similarities of stupidity of news channels between US and my country, that nationally hype stories that should stay local!

    No offense, but some of us really need to get a life (including me, coz I spent 15 mins reading the entire article. :))

    June 18, 2009 at 2:55 am |
  15. kevin mendoza

    people this kid has problems doesnt mean we have to lock him a way for the rest of his life its was animals he killed not people k just give him a few years and let him think about what he did.
    put it this way would you lock away your children forever if they did this????

    June 18, 2009 at 2:11 am |
  16. Stop It

    This is a very sad story, I hope this young man is provided mental health care rather than prison. So that his anger does not someday turn toward murdering humans. I am saddened by the level of anger expressed toward this young man that is obviously in pain and need mental health care. Animal lovers lack of compassion for human life is sickening...Never should the life of a human be measured to that of an animal. I ask....what is the greatest commandment of all? love one another as I have loved you ! This is directed toward the love of your fellow humans, not dog, cat , bird or fish... I do not condone taking the life of an animal or mistreating animals but my loyalty is for my fellow man not animal.

    June 18, 2009 at 12:56 am |
  17. Sankarshan Das Adhikari

    And don't forget what they are doing to the cows, those dear creatures who eat the grass, which we cannot digest, and turn it into the most wonderful food, milk, from which we derive so many wonderful things like cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. It is time that we give cows at least the same respect we give to dogs and cats.

    June 18, 2009 at 12:50 am |
  18. Wael Binali

    This is one of the most disgusting things I have heard. DeLong doesn't even come close to saying how bad this is. Most people who have pets and especially those that do not have children, regard their pets as their kids. The love given to them and care and attention devoted to them is no less than a mother or father caring for their child. On top of that, DeLong did not mention that animals feel the same pain we do. They might not be able to rationalize it, but the pain is the same. So killing an animal is no different to killing a human being, at least to some. As far as I am concerned, whether it be one person or a group, it's full on jail time for life!!!!!! This is disgusting. And they didn't have to probably stalk the animal as DeLong says. These cats probably ran over with their tails in the air to the person to get some attention and love. They didn't have to be stalked!!! Life in Jail. End of story!!!!

    June 17, 2009 at 9:26 pm |
  19. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    That's horrible! I am at least glad he was caught. I can't fathom somebody wanting to be so evil. I have three cats myself and can't imagine anyone doing such a thing to them. They are very loving animals. They do have natural instinct for mistrust though. That young man had to have stalked, pounced, and held those cats down with quite a bit of force to do what he did. A dog may very well have just come right up to him but not a cat. I hope he is punished severely.

    Donna Wood
    Lil' Tennessee

    June 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm |
  20. Melinda

    This is appalling. After last night's show about the child flushing the puppy down the toilet, I thought I had heard it all. Why was that family allowed to keep the puppy? Where was the ASPCA? And why were you and Erica chuckling about it? Nearly killing a puppy is no where near funny. That dog should be taken away immediately, and the person killing the cats should be put in the mental ward of the jail asap. Proven fact – people that hurt animals WILL always eventually move on to people.

    June 17, 2009 at 8:31 pm |
  21. Annie Kate

    150 years in prison? How is that going to help? IF this boy is the one doing the crime he is in desperate need of some psychological help; not 150 years in prison. Don't get me wrong – I deplore the killing of the cats. I have a cat of my own and would be horrified if something like this happened to my cat. However, I think we need to try to mentally and emotionally rescue the killer before we start talking jail sentences.

    June 17, 2009 at 8:28 pm |
  22. Julie

    it's better he's captured on time before this individual kills persons, seemingly he was on a path of reaching this next step for my analysis.

    June 17, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  23. anita

    Who ever does fatal harm or even any harm to a innocent animal is just SICK............We need more serious laws to protect these innocent creatures.................my heart breaks for these poor cats.... He is a monster................as the 17 yr ol in NY who thought it would be funny to bake her x friends 8 wk old kitten in the oven...........I am disgusted.............JUST PURE EVIL

    June 17, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  24. Maren in Oregon

    I personally volunteer to disembowel the perpetrator, and I will bring my cat – Newbie – with me to watch! OMG! this is the sickest thing I've heard in a long long time. Your work and writing are wonderful, and subject matter gruesome.

    June 17, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  25. Anonymous, Scared in CA

    creepy kid...stopped him before he turns into the next Jeffrey Dalmer...really get him help asap,

    June 17, 2009 at 7:16 pm |
  26. Dshaw

    this "man" is unholy....throw him over in iraq if he wants to kill. he might then learn the way of life.

    June 17, 2009 at 7:14 pm |
  27. Cari

    Disgusting. Lock him away for the rest of his days!

    June 17, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  28. foxjordan

    Sick, sick, sick!

    This is horrible. I say they castrate the sociopathic freak who did it and call it a day.

    And I'm not usually one to pass judgment.

    June 17, 2009 at 6:45 pm |