25 March 2011

Animal CSI: Animal DNA used to convict abusers in New York

The same sort of techniques used in catching and convicting criminals who hurt and kill people are now being used to catch and convict animal abusers. The New York Times reported this week on two recent cases in New York in which animal DNA was used to convict the perpetrators of heinous crimes. According to the ASPCA these cases represent the first time forensic DNA evidence was used to win animal cruelty convictions.

Both cases involved cats who were so brutally injured by their attackers that they had to be euthanized.

In 2008, Scruffy the cat, a 1-year-old tabby, was taken to a vacant apartment in Brooklyn, doused with lighter fluid and set on fire by Angelo Monderoy and Matthew Cooper, who were teenagers at the time. When Scruffy’s owner found him the next day, the cat was crying and unable to move, his fur and skin were singed off his back and legs. Scruffy was rushed to a nearby animal hospital with fourth degree burns so severe that he had to be euthanized.

Scruffy’s killers were brought to justice because investigators were able to link DNA from burnt tissue found at the crime scene to both men. Mr. Cooper pleaded guilty to a charge of arson and is serving a seven-year prison sentence. Mr. Monderoy chose to go to trial and was found guilty of aggravated animal cruelty, burglary and arson on March 8. He faces up to fifteen years in prison.

Monderoy told friends that he and Cooper attacked the cat because they were bored.

In the second case, which occurred in 2009, 186 pound Lordtyshon Garret beat his Mother-in law’s nine pound tabby cat Madea so severely her lungs collapsed and the feline sustained injuries consistent with falling off a building or being hit with a car. Little Madea fought her attacker, biting and scratching the umbrella Garret used to stab and beat her with. Madea, who was euthanized a day after the attack, helped to inadvertently catch her attacker as investigators were able to use DNA found on the umbrella to link Garret to the crime.

Garret attacked Madea in retaliation after his mother-in-law told him to get a job and move out of her house, where Garret and his wife had been staying. After the brutal beating Garret told relatives “It was only a cat, who cares?"

Garret, who showed up for his court appearance wearing a fur hat, was found guilty in early March of aggravated animal cruelty and could be sentenced up to four years in jail.

Dr. Robert Reisman of the ASPCA’s hospital, who testified in both cases, said the use of DNA to solve animal cruelty cases "is a groundbreaking development that will aid tremendously in helping bring to justice those perpetrators of animal abuse.”

Robin Lawless | @robmlaw | email
Robin lives in New York City and writes about all things animal, vegetable, and sometimes mineral at her blog wildnewyorkblog.com. Visit her there to read about animal friendly lifestyles in the Big Apple and beyond. Feel free to add Robin as a friend on Facebook.

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