Expert: Washington cat killer could evolve into region’s next serial killer

Aug 10, 2018, 4:13 PM | Updated: 6:55 pm

KIRO Nights’ Zak Burns doesn’t use the term “serial killer” lightly. But that’s exactly what he says Western Washington faces now as a cat killer continues to roam the region.

“Thurston County right now is the home of a serial killer, not a human serial killer at this point,” Burns said. “But someone has killed seven cats now. Not just killed them, but also mutilated them. The concern is that this is the sort of behavior that is first enacted on animals, but eventually escalates into humans. We are finding cat bodies now, but down the line, will we start finding people?”

Pasado’s Safe Haven is offering $10,000, and PETA is offering an additional $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest in the case of a cat killer. The cats are not only being killed, but mutilated and displayed in such a way that they will be found, and obvious they were harmed. Seven have been killed, spread across Lacey, Tumwater, Olympia, and one in Port Angeles, The Olympian reports. The incidents date back to October 2017 and are linked because the cats are mutilated in the same way.

Burns is not alone in his assertion that this behavior is a sign of a much more dangerous issue.

RELATED: DNA leads investigators to suspect 31 years after murders

“It’s hard to put into any kind of terms that aren’t super grizzly,” Dr. Darrel Turner told KIRO Nights. “But if you think about someone who has an interest in politics, their first move isn’t to run for president of the United States. There is a warming up process. This kind of behavior calls into mind people who progress into violent sexual acts.”

“You are seeing someone that is having fantasies and they have now stepped across the line from living in their head, to actually putting their hands on a living being … it’s extremely concerning,” he said.

Dr. Turner is a forensic psychologist. He has consulted for the FBI and the United States military on special cases. He has also provided expert testimony in murder and violent crime cases. Tuner is also a former staff psychologist at a high-security federal prison.

Cat killer could evolve into serial killer

Dr. Turner notes that the mutilation factor adds another layer of concern beyond the initial fact that the person is a cat killer. Cases like this tend to have younger suspects, getting started on a road to more dangerous behavior.

“These cats had names, they were not feral alley cats, they were pets,” Turner said. “So they were somewhat centralized to a home. It’s concerning because the amount of contact necessary to engage in that sort of mutilation is a lot different than driving by and shooting a cat with a BB gun … it is a very interpersonal type of violence.”

“This is really the front end,” he said. “This is not someone playing or experimenting. This is someone getting started in a very dark way. People don’t go down from this. They only get worse … with the frequency increasing, what that would tend to show is that the murder and mutilation of the cat is becoming not enough. When killing cats, and mutilating cats is not enough, what’s next?”

Tuner said that in some cases, like the Green River Killer, they stop for a period of time. But they generally go back to their killing behavior. In most cases, however, harming animals was a first step. Catching them early provides the best chances at therapeutic intervention.

“When you look at … the Son of Sam case, there is a series of murdered German Shepherds in that case; and Jeffrey Dahmer, as a teenager, there was an obsession with road kill and taking dead animals back to his home,” he said. “When I conduct an evaluation, quite frankly, it’s one of the first questions that you ask about their childhood; ‘Any history of hurting or torturing animals?’ It’s very, very common among people who go on to do horrible things.”

“Chances are, as it’s escalating the way it is, I would think that if this person isn’t caught now, it doesn’t bode well for the future,” Turner said.  “It doesn’t look like this person is slowing down at all … obviously the concern is that aside from more murdered cats, this progresses into killing human beings.”

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Expert: Washington cat killer could evolve into region’s next serial killer