Miami’s teenage serial cat killer exhibits the same early behaviors as Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo and others who went on to commit crimes of serial murder and rape.
Tyler Hayes Weinman, 18, was charged in a Miami court with 19 counts of cruelty to animals for the murder and mutilation of neighborhood cats. On June 17, 2009, a judge agreed to his supervised release on $250,000 bail but not before making it clear that the suspect must undergo psychiatric counseling twice a week.
The judge agreed to the suspect’s release because an evaluation showed that Weinman was not a danger to himself or others, according to “Judge Allows Supervised Release for Man Charged in Cat Killings”. Weinman is the prime suspect in an ongoing investigation into the murder of more than 30 cats, many of which were family pets.
At the very least, Weinman’s alleged crime causes shock, sadness and rage in the Miami community. But his actions may signal something far more disturbing lurking under the surface. Experts agree that the torture and/or murder of animals may be a sign that the perpetrator could eventually turn their violent behavior towards other people.
Cruelty towards animals is the most basic example of the need for power and dominance. Human beings have long dominated animals; they can supply food, transportation, protection and manual labor. Some animal rights activists claim that any attempt to dominate an animal by a human is abuse. But when a person’s need to control an animal gives way to violence, there is cause for concern. Although they vary state to state, every state has laws in place to hold people accountable for animal cruelty.
Why would anyone hurt an animal? Most people agree that cruelty to animals is unacceptable behavior. The internet is rife with shocking videos of people hitting dogs with baseball bats, kicking cats and torturing helpless birds and other small animals.
Survivors of domestic violence have often reported that their abusive partner used their pet as a tool of manipulation, threatening to harm or kill them to gain control. Although that kind of action is deplorable, there is a point where animal torture becomes a pattern that goes far beyond animal cruelty.
In 1992, Jeffrey Dahmer was found guilty of 15 counts of murder and sentenced to 957 years in prison. Dahmer’s crimes were shocking in nature, exceedingly brutal and horrific. In addition to murdering his victims, Dahmer tortured them in unimaginable ways and, in some cases, cannibalised them.
Dahmer openly admitted after his conviction that occurrences in his childhood — his parent’s divorce and his feelings of being neglected and unloved — eventually resulted in his need to control human beings. But Dahmer’s first acts of torture and murder were against animals.
According to his father Lionel Dahmer’s book A Father’s Story, Jeffrey dissected dead animals and sometimes displayed parts of them like trophies (p. 80). Albert DeSalvo, also known as “The Boston Strangler,” admitted to trapping dogs and cats in orange crates and shooting arrows through the crates when he was a child. Brenda Spencer, a teenage girl who shot and killed two elementary school students when she opened fire on a playground, set the tails of dogs and cats on fire. She also told authorities upon her arrest that the children she shot at looked like “a herd of cows.”
Does the torturing of animals always mean that the perpetrator will go on to commit horrific, violent crimes against human beings? Not necessarily. But unfortunately, crimes against animals are often overlooked or dismissed as adolescent behavior. Young people, teen and even adults who are causing unnecessary harm to animals should be evaluated for deeper psychological issues.
Phillips, Rich. “Judge Allows Supervised Release for Man Charged in Cat Killings.” CNN, 2009
Ramsland, Katherine. “School Killers.” Tru TV Crime Library