Animal rights activists and residents of a Mesa neighborhood, where cats have been disappearing alive and reappearing dead and mutilated, are angry at animal control and the Mesa Police Department, saying the charge against the suspect does not fit the crime and they are calling for the ouster of an animal control officer.
Scott Andrew Graham, 39, of Mesa faces a misdemeanor count of animal theft after dozens of cats in the vicinity of where he lives disappeared, many were found dead, he was caught taking one of the cats on video, and he threw a live cat out of his moving car’s window when a block watch captain followed him on a bicycle. More serious animal abuse and cruelty charges had been filed but were subsequently dropped due to what authorities said is a lack of evidence.
Residents, who planned to protest the lack of serious charges against the suspect at Mesa Municipal Court during the suspect’s arraignment hearing originally scheduled for Tuesday, have rescheduled the demonstration for Jan. 16. That is the new date of Graham’s arraignment.
Animal rights activist and protest organizer Jan McClellan said, “If they think we’re just going to go away and forget this, we’re not. We want to meet with the city and show them our evidence.”
The group of residents and activists said Mesa Animal Control bungled the case and are asking for the ouster of Animal Control officer Nick Cureton.
Block watch captain Ben Smith, who witnessed Graham throw a cat from the window of his vehicle while Smith was chasing the vehicle on his bicycle, and has been following up on the case ever since, said Cureton has been unresponsive to the neighbors’ concerns and has dismissed other mutilated, dead cats found in the area as not connected to Graham.
“He’s a ghost. I’ve never been able to get him on the phone,” Smith said.
Cureton’s supervisor Diane Brady, who said Cureton was not available for comment, said he and the Animal Control department did all they could but could find no evidence that the suspect hurt or killed the cats even though she called the deaths “suspicious.”
“It’s very hard on us to hear these accusations by the citizens, but I understand their frustration as well. But it boils down to we have to have the evidence to support the crime,” Brady said.
Amy Kalis, a resident whose cat Biscuit was killed along with another cat from the neighborhood that he often ran with, said her family has been devastated by the loss.
“It was a great loss to us and people say, ‘It’s just a cat,’” Kalis said. “Well he was a little different ... He was a great cat.”
Kalis said she never owned or liked cats before Biscuit, but the mild-mannered, loving cat won her over.
Smith also said he fears Graham could progress to hurting people.
According to the group of residents and activists and other media reports, Graham admitted to police he took Kalis’ cat as he was seen snatching it on video, but did not admit to killing it or up to 40 others he admitted taking. Also according to the group, police found physical evidence at Graham’s house and in the trunk of his car, but Mesa police did not return a message from the Tribune seeking comment about the investigation and to verify the evidence.