Monday, June 4, 2012

The Maple Ridge Cat Killer

There's a cat killer in my city.

No, it's not a dog. Or a coyote. Or any other animal predator you might imagine. This is a predator of the human variety. I'll get into the details in a moment, but first, a disclaimer: This post is in no way meant to glorify or celebrate the individual who is commiting these murders. My intent is to discuss the effect that these horrific acts have had on my community, as well as the way various types of media can affect our perception. Note: I will rarely include disclaimers with my posts, but I think this is an important one.

The cat killings have actually been happening for almost a year now. However, the story is just now gaining momentum in the press as the death count has reached 24 (with 9 in the past two weeks). I should mention that the felines are not only being killed, but brutally dismembered. The head of the latest victim was found in a schoolyard, placed there between recess and lunch during a school day.

This last detail tells us a lot about the person commiting these crimes (for the purposes of this post, I'm assuming the killer is an individual and not a group). This person isn't just angry at cats, they aren't just killing and burying the victims, they are displaying the dead parts around town, likely with the intent to gain notoriety and to incite fear. And it's working.

For more details about this case, simply type 'Maple Ridge Cat Killer' into your favourite search engine. I'd like to move away from the killer and the crimes, and instead discuss the media coverage, the effect on our community, and our fascination as a society with crimes such as these.

Buttercup: The Face of Cat Killing
The way I first heard of the cat killings was on the front page of the local newspaper. Since then, I've seen coverage in other lower mainland newspapers, news broadcasts, and on the internet. One of the most recent victims, 'Buttercup', has now become the face of this story. The subject has become city-wide gossip, everyone has a theory, everyone has a reaction. Some just fear for their own cats, while others believe this is just the beginning, and others feel the need to go vigilante and bring the killer to justice themselves. Nobody I've encountered is on the side of the killer, though.

While a victim is a victim and that needs to be respected, why is the murder of a bunch of cats getting so much attention? Is it because they're a beloved pet that we relate with? Definitely. Is it because we like to know when someone has stepped out of the social norm and done the unthinkable? Absolutely. Is it because learning about these crimes and what a human being is capable of helps us to prevent further atrocities and to survive as a society? Without a doubt.

I think there's another option, however. There's the strange fascination we seem to have with serial killers. Why do I suddenly bring up serial killers, when there hasn't been a human victim yet? Well, because most people react to this story with the theory that this is a serial-killer-in-training, that it almost always starts with animals and escalates to humans. Why do we know this? We're not all FBI profilers. The first answer would be that it's easy enough these days to search serial killer tendencies, and animal killing is a typical quality you'll find in a basic serial killer profile.

They'd have this solved in an hour, right?
The second, more obvious, answer is that we're so saturated with serial killer drama in novels, films, and television, that we feel like we are an expert on the subject. I could provide a profile for the type of person I think is commiting these cat murders, and some of it would be based on my own fascination with the criminal mind and the fact I've researched famous killers in the past, but more honestly it's because I watch shows like Criminal Minds, CSI, and so on. These shows exist because of a morbid curiosity, a hunger to find justice behind the screen because it's so hard to come by in real life, and an acceptance that people are going to kill people, why not be a little entertained by it? I imagine that people believing these crime shows are 100% fact only makes law enforcement's job much harder.

To accompany this post, I've included a quote from 'The Killer Inside Me' by Jim Thompson. This novel was written in 1952, and marks the first time a writer wrote a story from the perspective of the murderer. While society's obsession with killers has definitely escalated since the turn of the century, it's interesting to note that this was written in the 50s, telling us that even back in the 'good old days', people still had an appetite to get inside the mind of a psychopath.

There isn't really a conclusion for this post, because there isn't a conclusion to this strange story yet. I honestly expect that when the paper comes tomorrow, there will be news of even more victims. Who knows how this will end? I only hope that if the killer is caught, or comes forward with a confession, the reasoning will be at least a little more psychological than 'This town is so boring'.

In the meantime, hug your kitties, watch your crime shows, and keep an eye on your neighbours.

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