In case you live outside South Florida and that headline hasn't made its way to your local paper or newscast, here's the deal: For the past couple months or so, cats in South Miami-Dade County have been turning up gutted and skinned and otherwise mutilated around a couple of residential neighborhoods.
Often their bodies were left at or near their owners' homes.
A couple days ago, with the cat corpse count at 19, Miami-Dade Police announced they'd caught the cat killer. Turns out, rather than fit a stereoptype - that of a greasy-faced, pock-marked kid, who parts his hair too far to one side and tilts his head to accomodate, who wears too much black and listens to angry music about a rendezvous with Satan or getting stuck in traffic on the Highway to Hell, the suspect is a good-looking, dog-loving young man from a good family in a good community.
Sounds like a character from Pleasantville.
Let's get this part out of the way: Killing animals is terrible, unless we're talking killing for food - beef, venison, fish, etc. Some of you don't like that sort of animal killing either, but you're gonna have to deal. No amount of domestic animal abuse is going to stop folks from eating meat.
But back to the point. If the cops are right and this kid killed those cats, then he should be locked up. He committed a crime...over and over again. He should serve not concurrent jail or prison sentences, but separate terms for each cat he tortured and mutilated.
That being said, there are a couple of things that bother me about this story: Based on chatter I've heard and seen around town, there are more people outraged about this cat-killing spree than there are even curious about the cloud surrounding the investigation of the police shooting of an apparently unarmed toursit on Miami Beach over the weekend, the laying off of nearly 400 teachers in Broward County, or the sad death of a police officer in a car crash early this morning, or the fact that another rich jock did something terrible and will only serve a month in jail for it (NFL player Donte Stallworth is pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter, for an accident several months ago in which he struck and killed a guy with his car, following a night of boozing in Miami Beach.)
Don't believe me? A Miami Herald Web boss tells me that our online team was compelled to shut down the comments section on some of the articles about alleged cat killer Tyler Weinman, because there were so many menacing, abusive comments.
The other thing that bothers me though is how many people I hear saying things like "He just doesn't seem like someone who'd do this," or "He's such a good kid," or "This isn't like him...."
How exactly is a cat-killer supposed to seem? We've watched so many movies and so many TV shows about oddballs and social misfits that we've fooled ourselves into believing that criminals have to fit a certain appearance profile...or else it's harder for us to believe they could be criminals. Ted Bundy was a serial people killer. And he looked plain and "normal" as hell.
All that being said, even people charged with crimes are innocent till proven guilty. So let Tyler Weinman have his day in court. But if he's proven guilty? Lock him up. A slap on the wrist won't do, considering he supposedly did a whole lot more than slap his victims.