Two Miami Suburbs Breathe Easier as Police Nab Alleged Serial Cat Killer

By Paul Scicchitano
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, June 15, 2009; 11:03 PM

MIAMI, June 15 -- An 18-year-old Florida man suspected in the mutilation of numerous cats over the last month -- shocking attacks that kept two suburban Miami communities on edge -- appeared in court here Monday to face charges of animal cruelty.

Tyler Weinman made only one comment via video link from the Miami-Dade County Pretrial Detention Center, greeting County Judge Mindy S. Glazer at the outset of his hearing. The boyish-faced Weinman was wearing a prison-issued suicide gown -- a one-piece garment designed to limit an inmate's ability to hurt himself.

Glazer found probable cause to hold Weinman over for trial on 19 counts of animal cruelty, four charges of burglary and 19 counts of improperly disposing of animal carcasses. She set bail at $249,500, but also required that he wear an electronic monitoring device and undergo a psychiatric evaluation before his release.

"I'm concerned about his safety and the safety of the community," Glazer said.

His attorney, David W. Macey, charged that Weinman had been interrogated for eight hours straight and kept awake for 24 hours following his arrest. "It's a sad day for the Constitution because Mr. Weinman is innocent," Macey said.

If convicted of all charges, Weinman could face a maximum sentence of 158 years in prison, State Attorney's Office spokeswoman Terry Chavez told the Associated Press.

Weinman was arrested Sunday morning, and law enforcement officials said he had been under surveillance for some time. A detective with the Miami-Dade County police said that authorities had received 60 tips regarding the case.

As many as 30 cat mutilations had been reported over the past month within a 50-block radius of two Miami suburbs, Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay. In many of the cases, family pets had been snatched after dark, taken to an unknown location where they were mutilated, and then returned to their homes hours later, where the bodies were often discovered by horrified pet owners.

Some carcasses appear to have been posed or skinned. A number of victims described the injuries to their pets as "clean" wounds, inflicted by a sharp instrument.

The attacks galvanized civic leaders in Cutler Bay, with a population of about 40,000, and Palmetto Bay, with some 25,000 residents.

"This is about as typical a suburban neighborhood as it gets, a really tight community," Cutler Bay Mayor Paul S. Vrooman said.

Vrooman visited 13 homes of residents who lost pets, to assure them of the depth of police concern about the case, even though he suffers from an allergy to cats. "I just felt like that was the way to share what they've gone through," Vrooman said.

Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn also met with residents and animal groups throughout the investigation. Before Sunday's arrest in the case, he hesitated to describe his own cat, Fiyero, to a reporter.

"How do I know you're not the cat killer," he asked.

Nancy Mayes, a Cutler Bay resident, was describing the horror of finding her murdered cat Sheba on a nearby policeman's lawn when she was interrupted by a voice over the television. "The so-called cat killer has struck again," the announcer said, telling of two fresh cat killings, and Mayes gasped as she pressed up against the television in the living room of her single-family home.

"My skin crawls when I think that this person has been in this neighborhood -- God knows how many times -- writing down addresses where they've seen cats," Mayes said.

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