Someone has been killing cats and leaving their mutilated bodies out for display in Timbergrove, and folks there are having trouble getting the Houston Police Department to care.
On September 1, a resident e-mailed Houston Police Department animal cruelty investigator Virginia Brasher to say that he "came upon some cat parts" in an easement behind some houses between Ella Blvd. and T.C. Jester. "The parts were noticeably wet and lack of insects leads me to believe they hadn't been there long," he wrote. The resident attached some pictures, which appear to be the cat's severed tail, two legs, and a pink, glistening intestine.
It appears to be that resident's first time e-mailing Brasher, but another resident had been cataloging the cat mutilations over five years -- perhaps a dozen killings -- and consistently updating Brasher.
That second resident is Jennifer Estopinal, who says she was first made aware of the killings after hearing about three dead cats turning up on the grounds of Sinclair Elementary and another mutilated corpse found in a neaby H-E-B parking lot.
It's unclear if all of the cats were people's pets, but some were. Estopinal explained in a 2008 e-mail to a Houston police officer that one woman's cat had been found, skinned and gutted, by Brooktree and Millwood drives. According to Estopinal, "The owner is a kind elderly lady and has not been told the awful details. She doesn't need to know."
Estopinal later directed her updates to Sgt. Brasher. So that's who she e-mailed after hearing about the Sept. 1 incident. Estopinal also forwarded information about the gruesome discovery of other remains on Droxford Drive. "The remains of the cat I saw were horrific," a resident told Estopinal in an e-mail. The resident told Estopinal that she "didn't get close enough to see how many pieces" and that "It was obvious that it was no accident. I did not see blood around the remains, so I [am] assuming it was placed there." Estopinal also described another incident where a mutilated cat was left at one family's back door. Unfortunately, in that case, the "husband quickly disposed" of the remains and did not notify police.
But Estopinal told Brasher about that incident, just like all the rest. She also provided Brasher with the name of a man in his early 20s who, she says, is often seen wandering Timbergrove and Lazybrook late at night, "often carrying a weighted down [duffel] bag or backpack," which is so not sketchy. When the guy landed in jail for assault in 2012, Estopinal gave Brasher the heads up and asked if that might be a convenient time to ask him a question or two. Brasher e-mailed back, saying she'd talk to the guy (there's no evidence she ever did) but she also told Estopinal later that she spoke with the guy's parents -- who had kicked him out of their house sometime prior -- and they vouched for their son not being a cat killer.
Unfortunately, Estopinal stopped hearing from Brasher. She told us in an e-mail that she was "feeling on my own with this, as HPD isn't doing anything."
When we called HPD, we found out why: Spokeswoman Jodi Silva told us that Brasher had retired. Apparently, Brasher didn't think this minor detail was important enough to share with Estopinal.
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Silva also told us that, after speaking with Brasher, the newly retired sergeant was under the impression that the Labor Day discovery of the quartered cat -- information provided to her so quickly that the entrails were still moist -- was from Labor Day the year before.
The good news is that, according to Silva, the new animal cruelty investigators are very concerned about these killings and are going to actively investigate. Of course, there's not a whole lot to go on -- even if Brasher hadn't dropped the ball, it's unlikely that there would have been more progress. Also, we understand that HPD has its hands full with crimes involving human beings, but we're sort of puzzled as to how this just fell through the cracks. And we certainly hope that what Silva told us is true and that it is once again an active investigation. Crime Stoppers of Houston is highlighting crimes against animals this month, so now would be an especially good time to contact them if you have information on these killings. You can call 713-222-TIPS (8477) or text TIP610 to CRIMES (274637).
Props to Estopinal for staying on top of this. And we'll keep you posted.
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