Yonkers cat killer could be capable of worse, experts say
YONKERS – Whoever killed 25 cats and wrapped them in plastic bags before hanging the dead bodies in trees could be capable of even greater crimes, experts warned.
"We all know a lot of serial killers had histories of animal abuse," said noted criminologist Vernon J. Geberth, a retired lieutenant commander in the New York City Police Department.
"There is definitely a pathology," said Geberth, who was commanding officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force.
Ernest Lungaro, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Westchester officer investigating the cat killings, also noted that perpetrators of animal cruelty could be capable of more.
"There is definitely a connection with violence against people," said Lungaro, a former lieutenant in the NYPD's Organized Crime Control Bureau.
The cats were found April 24 in a wooded area off Overlook Terrace that looks out on North Broadway and Getty Square.
Necropsies on three of the cats showed their heads were crushed with blunt objects. The bodies of the other animals were so decomposed necropsies have not been performed on them. The killings were not believed to have been ritualistic.
Lungaro, who has been canvassing the Locust Hill Avenue neighborhood where the dead cats were found, said Friday there were no suspects yet.
Geberth told The Journal News there was a "psychological and sexual manifestation" to serial killers who had animal cruelty in their backgrounds.
Male serial killers who commit acts of animal cruelty often have "females in their minds," Geberth said.
"Some people don't go beyond this," said Geberth, the author of four books on homicide investigation. "Some people do."
"If I was in law enforcement I would definitely be concerned," Geberth concluded.
Lungaro, 46, called the Yonkers case the toughest one he's handled in his three years with the SPCA.
"It is definitely unusual," Lungaro said. "The way they were displayed. I have never seen anything like this and neither has anyone else here." Still, he was optimistic he would be able to make an arrest.
Lungaro, who operates full-time with peace officer status, has one part-time officer to help him. Together they handle 2,000 calls a year on animal cruelty in Westchester for the SPCA, which is funded by donations.
His investigation is being supplemented by detectives from the Yonkers police Detective Division's Major Case Unit.
"We are looking at people in and out of the neighborhood," said Detective Lt. Patrick McCormack.
The case has gotten international attention, with Yonkers police receiving media inquires from as far away as London and Australia, police said.
A total of $23,250 in reward money is being offered by a handful of animal welfare organizations for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the cat killings.
Anyone with information can call the SPCA's Animal Cruelty Hotline at 914-941-7797