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? FULL POST

Filed under: 360° Radar • Alyssa Caplan • Crime & Punishment
June 12th, 2009
01:42 PM ET

'I lived with the white supremacist accused of murder'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/06/11/museum.shooting.suspect.two/art.grab.website.jpg caption="Writings attributed to James von Brunn and a biography appear on the Web site Holy Western Empire."]

Alexandra Poolos and Alyssa Caplan

Scott Aulbach flipped on the news when he finally got back to his Atlanta hotel room after a long day of training for his company. And suddenly he saw splashed across CNN a picture of his former roommate, James von Brunn. He was horrified to hear police reports that von Brunn was the man who walked into the Holocaust Museum in Washington with a rifle, and shot police officer Stephen Jones before being shot and apprehended by other officers.

Horrified. But not completely surprised.

"I heard something about a shooting at the Holocaust [museum] and the next thing I seen is his picture. I knew it was him."

Aulbach says von Brunn was his roommate for about six months in 2004. Aulbach had already been living with his friend Eric von Brunn, James von Brunn's son. Aulbach says neither he nor Eric von Brunn were white supremacists. In fact, Aulbach says Eric and his mother - divorced from James von Brunn - are wonderful people. But they heard plenty of supremacist rants from Eric's father.

Below are notes from our conversations with Aulbach in preparation for his interview with Anderson. AC360° producer David Puente also contributed to these questions. This evening, we will hear from Scott again as we take a special look at hate in America in our one-hour special, American Radical: The Lone Wolf, on AC360° at 10p ET. Please join us.


January 28th, 2009
06:56 PM ET

Jessica Simpson “Fat” Attack

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/28/art.vert.jessica.simpson.jpg width=292 height=320]

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/28/art.nypost.simpson.jpg caption="A cartoon depicting Simpson in the New York Post."]

Alyssa Caplan
AC360° Staffer

I'm feeling a little queasy and it’s not because I just remembered one peanut butter pretzel too late that there is a salmonella outbreak at hand. My bout of nausea began yesterday morning when I indulged the rare craving to listen to the radio while getting dressed for work. Admittedly, that 1995 throw back maneuver was likely my first mistake. But what happened next, no one deserves during that sacred time in the morning when you’re trying to center yourself for the day. Cue some horrified sounding radio DJ. The exact wording escapes me, likely a suppression response, but it went something like this: So, wow people! The New York Post ran a picture of Jessica Simpson today and she looks ginormous! She must have packed on 40 pounds! What has she been eating? What was she thinking? End fake quote, now read promo for weight loss supplement. Seriously - true story.

I tuned out when "unflattering" photos of Tyra Banks and Jennifer Love Hewitt surfaced on vacation, or when Britney Spears weight gain inspired teams of professionals dissecting photos, but never has this beloved pasttime of over-zealous armchair weight watching felt more out of place. Perhaps it’s a side effect of the recent culmination of a year of 24-7 “change” rhetoric being piped in to my ear, or the soberness I feel on the heels of record job loss numbers, but for some reason, today was the day when I could no longer stomach the particularly mean-spirited headlines and zings thrown around with reckless abandon accompanying someone’s appearance. The line of absurdity was definitely crossed for me on this one, and not just because I feel a little robbed of what could have been a celebrated moment since I do tend to believe (as friends of the singer allege) she wasn’t very happy keeping her weight at a rib-popping low.

Thankfully, upon further "Jessica Simpson Scandal" research, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the world had not completely gone to sh^%#t. Some web sites covering the concert that inspired the buzz didn't say a word about her appearance or simply duly noted a fuller figure and moved on. Yet several major media outlets went full throttle with the "porker" puns and there was the comic strip in the New York Post today. I’m speechless. The need to get on some sort of blow horn and call Yahtzee on this one overwhelms me. I briefly considered posting a YouTube video, hysterically ranting to “leave Jessica alone” ala Chris Crocker’s infamous YouTube, “Leave Britney (Spears) alone” sensation, but then decided my sore throat would impede dramatic effect and my video really would need to be, "leave the young fans of Jessica's who are trying to convince themselves not to lock themselves in their room till they reach their ideal weight and have to overhear this conversation alone!" I also contemplated writing a “Celebrities Are People Too” thesis and posting it in its entirety online, but again, I worried that wouldn’t really capture my sentiments and something sounded funny about, "People Are People Too." So I guess I'll just have to rely on the plain written word, no gimmicks.

Our President reminded us recently in his inauguration address that "our country is in crisis." It has been noted by many smart people - several pay scales above mine - that the upside to the challenges our country faces is that it will force us to take a closer look at the way we live our lives and with greater ease see what has served us well, and discard what has held us back. This sounds pretty good. I would say, "Sign me up!" but I guess I already am, I guess we all already are. I will be the first to admit my life is chalk full of hypocrisies, ironies, and contradictions, but my hope is that we can collectively make an oath to strive to be better about the big things in life as well as the small things while the door of change is propped open. A simple shift in tone would perhaps be a place to start, and an opportunity to admit that we're not really sure where funny ends, and mean starts, where an obligation to say what we think will sell crosses the line from harmless entertainment to something far uglier and more dangerous.

What I do know is that in terms of one manifestation of a societal mean streak, we've used the same excuses to dodge forward movement for a long time. "We're just covering the news," "celebrities are rich, self-centered, generally suck, and signed up for this so therefore they can just shut their little yappers and take one for the team while we all point and laugh that they're not so perfect after all, ey?!" "She is a star. It is her JOB to stay in shape and look good." And an oldie but goodie, “It’s just not healthy to be fat, that’s why it’s ok to call her x, y and z.”

Americans are better than this. Allow me to gently point out the irony of talking passionately about the desire for health and happiness for ourselves and loved ones out of one side of our mouths, and playing a judgmental bully fat (and otherwise) police to our fellow citizens out of the other side of our mouth. Women are definitely better than this. Who among us has not gazed longingly at their "skinny" jeans and opted instead for their "I had a little too much fun on vacation slightly dumpy jeans" and just prayed not to run in to any exes before they can get back to their regular gym routine?

Maybe this can be our moment of liberation where we accept that the truth of being human doesn't need to be danced around, nor conversely presented like a page out of the script for “Mean Girls: Part Two.” People (and by people, celebrities fall under that general category too) gain weight and lose weight. They also happen to read their email (Yes, I know. I was quite surprised to find out that there was no such thing as a bomb-sniffing “Robo Dog” that ensured that Anderson never got within a 10-mile radius of his email). Some people gain weight when they're in emotional distress, some people lose weight when they're hurting. Some people gain weight when they're in love, some people lose weight when they're in love and on and on and on. So show me pictures of celebrities’ weight range all day and night – just leave out the toxic remarks, kindly. I'll relish the opportunity to see someone I think is pretty and "has it all" going through the same roller-coaster ride of life that I do.