The St Petersburg police were quite timely in their response to the letter I wrote, but I haven’t been in posting that response. You can find it here. It does seem odd that the call doesn’t show up in their publicly released “calls for service”.
One of the witnesses looked at some pictures including the one of the man who had been described as regularly being seen leading a dog and carrying a stick. She didn’t pick him out. The investigating officer also followed up on our other suspect, a young man seen with a dachshund. She seems not to believe he had anything to do with the crime.
So, we are still looking for the person matching the original description. One positive thing to come out of this week, other than eliminating the above suspects, was that the witness was positive that it was a reddish brown dachshund. So anyone local, please keep an eye out for a young black man with that dog.
Charles “Chuck” Harmon
Chief of Police
St Petersburg Police Department
RE: Report Number 2008-021038
Dear Chief Harmon,
I am writing to you in the hope that you can execute a change in the handling of calls for service regarding violent crimes against animals.
We, unfortunately, had such a crime happen in our own front yard on April 12th in the middle of the day. It was widely reported in the media, and we even have a web site set up about the issue. ( www.WhoKilledAmy.com )
A man brutally beat our beloved cat, Amy, with a stick and left her for dead. My husband found her minutes later on the sidewalk fighting for her life, but she died the next day. We are especially devastated by her death because of the violence of it. No animal should have to suffer such an act of cruelty, and we are doing everything in our power to see that she receives some justice, and to prevent this type of crime happening again to an animal or a person.
However, there were what we consider were some serious errors in how the case was first handled by the police phone operators.
In our case, there were two witnesses who saw this man beating our cat. They yelled at him to stop, and he then threatened them as well. Fearing for their safety, they left the area but immediately were dialing 911 on their cell phone.
The witnesses said that they were re-routed to non-emergency and were then interrogated for quite a while before then being told to call animal control.
A patrol car never showed up, and a perusal of the calls for service on that day shows that the call WAS NEVER EVEN LOGGED. So, instead of the offender possibly being caught on the day, he was allowed to escape. The witnesses say he had a small dog on a leash with him so he couldn’t have moved too quickly. That failure to act appropriately has meant a greater investigative load on your department, as well as requiring us to pound the pavement for the past month, knocking on doors and posting flyers, trying to find the person responsible. The above report number refers the call that I put in on the Monday after the attack.
We cannot help but think that if the call had been handled as an emergency or even a non emergency (our home is less than a mile from the police station), then this person would have been apprehended and we could start having some closure in our lives. If the non-emergency operator had at least treated the call seriously, then we would be a lot further advanced then we are now. There were only a handful of calls for service between Noon and 1 PM that day, less than ten, so I am sure it was not an issue of available officers.
It wonâ€™t bring back our Amy, but maybe we could have started sleeping at night knowing that this man, who could do such a heinous thing, was off the streets and unable to hurt another helpless creature or person. I can only imagine who he will go after next. As it is, all our free time is spent in trying to track down this man to give Amy the justice she deserves.
I hope after reading this letter you will see how a change in policy would benefit both the police department and the victims of violent crime.
We would like to commend Officers Roeser and Westerman for all their hard work and open communication with us on what is happening in the investigation. They have been very professional and attentive and have treated us and the case with the utmost consideration. Never having had a violent crime happen to us before we were extremely overwhelmed in the beginning and have appreciated all their efforts on our behalf.
We have been contacted by Jen Hobgood, at the Humane Society of the US South Eastern Office in Sarasota. The HSUS is willing to offer a $2,500 additional reward. However, they do want to speak to law enforcement before offering and publicizing the reward. Unfortunately, they have been unable to get a response from the St Petersburg Police Department. Perhaps you could contact Ms. Hobgood about this matter? You can reach her on PHONE NUMBERS REMOVED.
It has been shown that violence against animals is a gateway crime to violence against humans, and we hope this letter may have some influence in helping future victims. As you are probably aware, the accused in the recent triple murderer in Lutz had been investigated for multiple counts of cat killing in the recent past. This is possible scenario here as well.
Thank you for your time and attention and we look forward to your response.
We have two persons of interest.
One we were concerned it may be difficult to find because he was evicted a week after Amy was killed. Those worries are now over. He was busted recently for a major crime so we now know exactly where he is. The Pinellas County Jail. Unless he posts a $40000 bond. That ain’t going to happen.
The other one I am not going to say anything about. But he is under scrutiny. The wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow but they grind exceedingly fine.
Officer Roeser called in response to my voicemail to let me know that she had spoken to the witnesses, and asked them to find time to look at some photos. But as yet, they haven’t called her back. The male witness seemed cooperative when we met him, so I hope it is just that they are busy right now.
Someone from our neigborhood called to say that she had seen a black man walking a dachshund. I went to the vicinity but saw nothing. She seemed above board when I spoke to her and asked her to let me know if she saw him again.
Jen Hapgood of the The Humane Society of the United States, Southeast Regional Office in Tallahassee, FL (850-386-3435) contacted me. They are possibly going to offer up to an additional $2500 reward. She had been having trouble getting Officer Westerman to return her calls. I told her that Officer Roeser seemed to have taken the lead on the investigation and that she should try to get in touch with her. I left a message for Officer Roeser myself, as I wanted to find out if there had been any progress on the photopack being gotten to the witnesses.
One of my neighbors told me of two recently vacated homes which may have housed someone matching the description of the suspect. I wrote to the former property manager (Berman Realty) of one of those properties,:
Hello Gene and Jennifer. A few weeks ago my pet cat was killed. We are following all leads as to who the perpetrator is. One of my neighbors said that someone matching the description of the killer lived in a property managed by you until recently. The property is at 2315 3rd Ave N. I spoke to the former owner and client of yours, Joe Cavaleri, and he is fine with you releasing any information to me. It may be a total red herring but we do want to eliminate any suspects from suspicion as soon as possible. If you could contact me and advise me of the names of the tenants or any matching the description (see our site whokilledamy.com) then it would be most appreciated.
No answer so far.
I haven’t had any word from the Police about how the photo pack process is working, so we don’t know if our prime suspect can be eliminated or not yet.
Yesterday I did a lot of research into a possible lead. A girl, who looked about ten years old, told me on Sunday that she had spotted someone matching the description and was able to identify the apartment that he lived in until recently. She said that he had just moved out. I looked up the owner from the Property Appraisers database, Googled them and found their business web site. I visited the business in Largo on that day but it was closed. I always find it better to approach people in person rather than deal with email and phone, which can be too easily filtered. It is easier to read people in person too, in case they are hiding something.
On Monday, I did end up calling. The owner was a bit puzzled and paranoid that I had tracked him down, but he revealed to me the property manager’s name. I went to his office but he wasn’t in, so after keeping his office under surveillance from the porch of a local eatery, the Craftsman House, I gave up and phoned him. He was helpful and told me that the tenants had been evicted just a week earlier. The lease was in the name of a woman, and the boyfriend was living there illegally with his illegal dog. He gave me the names of the two. I looked them up on the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office web site, and sent the property manager the mugshots. He confirmed that the man was the person he had evicted. The trouble now, is how to find them. I have the name and several addresses for the man’s mother, and even visited an address form the phone book, to find it was a vacant lot. I left a message for Officer Westerman to tell her what I had found out.
The owner did call back later to see if I had gotten the information that I needed. He was still curious as to how I had tracked him down so I told him. He said that he regarded buying that property as one of the worst mistakes of his life. I joked the even on a sunny day he would probably find a black cloud above it. I said that if we could get the person who killed Amy locked inside then I’d gladly burn it down for him. That was a joke!
A couple of people tell me that they have added the site to their MySpace profiles:
My friend Cliff wrote: Did you note that the 16 year old who beat and raped the girl at the library this weekend, had started with convictions for animal cruelty?
I replied: Allegedly beat and raped….but I did notice that. Animal abuse is the gateway crime to bigger things.
I’d like to thank Jill Purl, Humane Officer at the SPCA (727-423-0774), who kindly called me on April 22 to say that she was investigating. She is a Brit, and I think I just saw her hubby, Steve, on TV. He was the customer of some mechanic’s shop in Pinellas Park where the proprietor blew himself up. I assume it was her husband as he had a British accent and his last name was Purl.
Jill got Linda, the head honcha at Pinellas County Animal Services (727-582-2600) to print a report listing registered dog owners. This report was then provided to Officer Amanda Westerman at the St Petersburg Police Department who I’d also like to thank. She was the first contact with a sworn officer that we had at SPPD. She was muy simpatica.
Officer Skinner of Pinellas County Animal Services was the first official that I spoke to the day of Amy’s beating. She was the one who broke the sad news that they had received a call about a cat being attacked. Officer Skinner came down on her own time to meet us and look around the neighborhood.
Barbara Snow of The Humane Society of Pinellas County (727-797-7722) was very helpful, offering reward money and doing a press release on cruelty to animals, featuring Amy’s story. Twila Cole at the Humane Society wrote the press release.
Marissa Weeks, Media Liaison at the SPCA (727-586-3591) was also very sympathetic and made some helpful suggestions. She said that the Humane Society of the US may be helpful. Nora Hawkins and Beth W (I can’t read my writing) were also nominated as good contacts.
I spoke to Tina at Bay News 9 (727-329-2400). I don’t know if they ever ran the story but she was very nice.
Thanks to Jan at 2134 Burlington Ave for offering some advice and sympathy.
More acknowledgments later.