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    Animal cruelty can be a harbinger

    A group concerned about animal cruelty learns that many serial killers get their start by torturing animals.

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 23, 2002

    LARGO -- The link between cruelty to animals and violence against humans is clear and people should take animal abuse seriously, a top Humane Society of the United States official said Monday.

    Violence against animals is an obvious indicator of someone who could harm humans, said Dr. Randall Lockwood, vice president of research and educational outreach for the Humane Society.

    Lockwood spoke to nearly 120 people at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Monday night about the need to view cruelty to animals as a serious offense and a warning sign of future problems.

    Local law enforcement officials supported his conclusions, focusing on a 2001 animal abuse case involving the sodomizing and beating of two East Lake pet llamas.

    "It is the victimization that is the connection," Lockwood said. "I have yet to meet, in my many years of dealing with some fairly nasty people, someone who happens to be a loving son, father, pillar of the community who just happens to like to crush kittens."

    Showing photographs of several serial killers, he said many of these people tortured animals before killing humans.

    Assistant State Attorney Bill Burgess and Pinellas County Sheriff's Office detective Tom Hoddinott spoke after Lockwood.

    Going into graphic detail of the events, they spoke about their investigation last year into a number of animal maimings and killings, including three llamas, two bulls and a pet goat.

    The two officials told audience members about the convictions of teenagers Robert Pettyjohn, 18, and Brandon Eldred, 17, in the attacks.

    "Pettyjohn showed very little feeling for what he had done," Hoddinott said. "Every time we turned over a rock, there were more crimes."

    Many audience members gasped or showed disgusted expressions during the talk. The serious mood was broken only by a gray cat that wandered through the audience to the front of the room.

    The details were a little too much for Largo resident Anne Share, a teacher at Starkey Elementary. She left during parts of the discussion.

    "It's just too much for me," said Share, who has four dogs. "I can't even stand it when my dogs get little cuts."

    It's important for the community to look closely at this case, though, Lockwood said.

    "Fortunately, these young (people) were stopped before they killed a human being," he said. "Not every teenage boy who's bludgeoned an animal to death is destined to be a serial killer, but it's the largest of red flags."

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