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Killings of Pets Spark Angry Cries for Action

Times Staff Writer

Residents of North Tustin and nearby areas jammed a community meeting Wednesday night and demanded that local officials coordinate an aggressive investigation into the killings and apparent mutilations of cats and other animals in the vicinity.

At an emotional meeting of the North Tustin Municipal Advisory Council, residents threatened to walk out when council members indicated they wanted to think over recommendations prepared by a Noth Tustin resident before forwarding them to the County Board of Supervisors.

The outcry was so forceful from more than 100 people in attendance that the eight-member advisory council instead merely amended the resolution and approved it unanimously.

The resolution recommends that supervisors immediately set up a central reporting agency for the incidents and launch a public information campaign.

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The animal deaths were made public this month by Janet Hampson a North Tustin resident who has been collecting reports from neighbors and from people in Orange and Tustin since last May, when a cat that belonged to her father’s next-door neighbor, veterinarian James Connoyer, was found on a lawn cut neatly in two with its heart and liver missing.

Since then, Hampson, a free-lance political consultant who owns three cats, said she has compiled reports involving nearly 50 animals, a handful of which were simply reported as missing. In addition to cats, the reports include a few cases involving rabbits, gerbils, birds and opossums.

Despite the resolution’s ultimate passage, some of the residents, who came from North Tustin, Tustin, Santa Ana, Orange and as far away as Brea, stormed out of the meeting, accusing council members of trying to hide from the problem.

“They don’t want to hear us,” one woman shouted as she kicked a folding chair and stormed from the meeting room at the Guin Foss Adult Education Center.

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The council is an elected body that advises the Orange County Board of Supervisors and county agencies on matters affecting the unincorporated area of North Tustin.

Irene Brace, a member of the council, said earlier that she wanted the matter brought before the council because many North Tustin residents were living in a climate of fear as a result of the recent deaths of animals and because there did not seem to be much coordination among the various law enforcement agencies that had been contacted.

Brace said two of her neighbors’ cats had been found cut into pieces in recent months.

Since news accounts of Hampson’s findings were published, similar reports have flooded in from all over the county, Hampson said. The reports are based solely on descriptions given to her by the owners of the animals or the person who found their bodies, she said.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, some residents reported that they had found animal parts on numerous occasions spread on and around school grounds.

A common thread is that the animals appeared to have been cut with sharp instruments rather than by a larger animal’s teeth or claws, and that the body parts and the areas around them appeared to be devoid of blood. In some cases, according to people contacted by The Times, body parts and organs appeared to have been washed and arranged in deliberate patterns on the ground.

Keith and Terri Hayes of Orange told a reporter that they found their cat’s head sitting upright on their lawn last September with the paws neatly set in front of it. Connoyer, whose cat, Keoke, was killed last May, said he subsequently saw the carcasses of two of his neighbors cats and they also had been cut in half. Connoyer, who worked as an emergency veterinarian at a pet clinic for 4 years, said it was “hard for me to imagine that these were typical of attacks by dogs or coyotes.”

At the Wednesday night meeting, Jack Edwards, the county’s chief of animal control field services, told the council that many of the killings had been done by coyotes, but he conceded for the first time that some of the animals had “been killed by human hands.”

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Richard Paddock, an Orange County sheriff’s investigator who also attended the meeting, told the gathering that much of the problem stems from the fact the cases have not been reported to the proper agency.

Paddock said the Sheriff’s Department has on record only two reports of animal mutilations, the last of which came in August, 1988.

Both Paddock and Edwards urged residents to patrol their neighborhoods, report suspicious activity, and, as Edwards said, “get tough.”

Hampson and some of her neighbors have said they suspect the killings were done deliberately by humans, possibly by Satan worshipers. She said literature on satanic cults points out that some worshipers not connected to recognized satanic churches have been known to kill animals for their blood and body parts and to arrange parts and organs in patterns on the ground.

Such groups, according to “The Satan Hunter” by occult investigator Thomas W. Wedge, typically are alienated young people who engage in shocking activities to cover up their sense of powerlessness.


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