SPRINGDALE – Horrified pet owner Sherry Teresa found her cat dead and mutilated Saturday night on Anasazi Plateau in Springdale and is offering a $2,500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.
The potential case of animal cruelty has a Springdale neighborhood on high alert after the cat was found severed in half. Teresa said her cat was trapped, drained of blood, surgically cut in half and had his heart and lungs removed before being left outside her home.
Teresa’s 11-year-old cat, Khepri, was lying in her lap while she sat in a chair reading a book until about midnight Saturday. Teresa then went to bed, leaving her sliding doors and windows open for fresh air.
“I have been up here for about five-and-a-half years, and I came up here from Fallbrook, which is in San Diego County, and coyotes were thick as thieves,” Teresa said, “so these cats knew about coyotes, and they were very cautious about going outside, especially at night.”
Teresa said Khepri normally wakes her up in the morning, but on Sunday morning, when she awoke at about 7 a.m., Khepri wasn’t there. After searching her two-story home for her cat, Teresa went out on her balcony and saw a black lump about 100-125 feet from her home.
“I grabbed a towel and went down there ’cause I saw he wasn’t moving,” Teresa said. “I’m a wildlife biologist, it’s my profession, and I looked at him and I just thought ‘this is so odd, because he’s not eaten on.’ He was cut in half, heart and lungs were gone, and there wasn’t a drop of blood anywhere, and he was laid there with his front paws crossed over each other. I just kept looking at him and I just thought, ‘this is too strange.’”
Khepri’s suspicious death
Teresa said she has seen a lot of animal kills, and typically when another animal has done the killing, you don’t find the carcass because the animal has carried if off to eat, but Khepri’s remains hadn’t been disturbed at all.
“It was like he had been gently laid there,” she said. “He wasn’t thrown, he wasn’t in an odd angle – it’s like, if he was alive, he would have been sleeping.”
Teresa picked Khepri up and wrapped him in the towel. After she got home from church, Teresa said she carefully looked at him again.
“It was like surgical incisions,” she said. “Very, very clean cuts. Cat’s skin is very tough, and when it’s animals, they rip and tear, and that wasn’t what this was. You could see along the rib cage where it had been cut.”
As she became more convinced Khepri hadn’t been killed by another animal, Teresa kept the cat’s body cold and took him to Dr. Casey Wittwer at the Zion Veterinary Clinic in Hurricane Monday morning.
“I pleaded with (Wittwer) to tell me that this was a mountain lion or bobcat or something that killed this cat,” she said, “and he said ‘I can’t do that; this cat’s been killed by a human.’”
The report from Khepri’s autopsy, which was performed by Wittwer, said all of the cat’s organs had been removed except for the colon; there was no blood pool and no punctures on the remaining body.
Wittwer wrote in the report:
The square section of body missing appears to have been cut with surgical precision. The lines are too smooth to have been a wild animal. The remaining bone fragments from the ribs and pelvis are fairly smooth.
Due to the symmetry of the cuts and the straight lines, I suspect a knife or saw was used. The broken jaw and damaged nails are probably from the captor hitting Khepri and him fighting back.
In the final diagnosis listed on Khepri’s autopsy report, Wittwer ruled the cat’s death as being due to human-caused mutilation by a blade or saw.
“The cat’s jaw was broken – the bottom jaw was broken vertically – and so the vet said probably someone stuck a pipe in there to knock him out before they killed him or cut him in half, and I’m just thinking ‘this poor cat,’ and the vet said he did fight,” Teresa said. “His nails were broken and he was scraping against the cage (the captor had placed him in), and there is the possibility of DNA under his claws.”
Wittwer said they will save Khepri’s body for a week prior to sending it out for cremation to see if the city of Springdale wants to do any forensic testing.
Springdale Police Sgt. Garen Brecke said the case is under investigation and declined to comment on any speculations as to what may have caused the cat’s death, but he said they have never seen anything like this in the area before.
Brecke said he doesn’t think DNA testing would be performed in an animal cruelty case.
In the meantime, Teresa has been busy putting up flyers around Springdale, Rockville, Virgin and Hurricane and is offering a $2,500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Khepri’s death. She said she believes somebody has to know something about the killing. She also said she no longer sleeps with her doors and windows open and that she sleeps with a gun nearby.
Where we live, someone had to have been watching me because this took a lot of prep – they had to trap this cat, they had to remove him, do what they did to him, and then they had to come back and place him.
“Whoever this is and why ever they did it, they need to be stopped,” she added. “This is how serial killers start – torturing animals. He was such a sweet cat; it just makes me sick. And I’m still sick. And I’ve got to tell you, I’m scared. It’s so surreal. I still can’t believe that it happened.”
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Springdale Police Department at 435-772-3434.
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