MURDER & MURDERING MOST FOWL
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1998:
“Kids need to be careful that they don’t
shoot anything but a starling, pigeon, or English
sparrow,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent
Doug Goessman recently told the Billings Gazette.
Goessman was asked to comment on the
July arrest of Terry McMinn, 25, of Bozeman,
Montana, who allegedly shot a federally protected
magpie with a BB gun in a Pizza Hut parking lot.
“People need to be aware that they can be
fined for this,” added Bozeman animal control
officer Kathy Ham.
If either Goessman or Ham mentioned
that the apparent gratuitious cruelty of the shooting
might be the most serious aspect of it, the observation
wasn’t reported––although Ham was considering
filing cruelty charges.
Yet only days earlier, on July 24,
Russell Eugene Weston Jr., 41, shot two U.S.
Capitol police officers dead and wounded a woman,
just the latest of a small army of drifters to demonstrate
what the American Humane Association calls
“The Link”: the virtual certainty that someone who
starts killing people essentially for the hell of it has
practiced first by killing animals.
The day before, July 23, Weston’s
grandmother Lillie Weston, of Valmeyer, Illinois,
asked him to “do something” about his father
Russell E. Weston Sr.’s 14 cats.
Weston Jr. shot them all, buried 12, and
left the remains of his father’s two favorites, Little
Bit and Tiger, in a bucket for his father to find.
“I was pretty well steamed. I was mad
and I was hurt, both,” Weston Sr. told Joseph B.
Verrengia of Associated Press.
Weston Sr. insisted that his son and
namesake “really did like animals,” and “was very
good with the house dogs.”
Be that as it may, Harvard Medical
School psychiatry and law program co-director
Harold Bursztajn observed to Verrengia, the cat
killings probably were part of Weston Jr.’s final
descent into psychosis.
“Killing animals is a good indicator,”
Bursztajn agreed, “that someone might escalate
their violent behavior against other human beings.”
Others prominently illustrating the pattern
at about the same time included four survivalist
Eric Rudolph, 31, still at large, was
sought by the FBI in North Carolina for allegedly
bombing an abortion clinic, and was wanted for
questioning in connection with the 1996 Olympic
Games bombing in Atlanta, another abortion clinic
bombing, and a bombing at a gay bar.
Jason Wayne McVean, 26, and Alan
(Monte) Pilon, 30, were sought for allegedly
killing police officer Dale Claxton, 45, of Cortez,
James Andrew Finley, 21, was arrested
on August 4 near Pekin, North Carolina, and
charged with merdering Derek Andrew Marston,
24, and Tommi Danielle Byrd, 24, apparently just
to get authorities to chase him so that he could
show off his hunting and hiding skills.
Bracketing those cases, Daniel E. Besse,
17, was charged on June 30 with allegedly killing
hunting buddy Daniel Rodgers, also 17, on
October 17, 1997, for kicks––and allegedly threatening
a 14-year-old witness to keep him silent.
On August 11, Arkansas circuit court
judge Ralph Wilson sent Mitchell Johnson, 14,
and Andrew Golden, 12, to a state juvenile detention
center until they turn 21, for stealing hunting
weapons and using them to kill three 11-year-old
girls and a teacher on March 24 in Jonesboro.
In between came one hopeful sign that
some people, at least, are beginning to recognize
that children shouldn’t be shooting or helping facilitate
the shooting of starlings, pigeons, or English
On July 17, at request of United Animal
Nations and The Fund for Animals, the SierraPlumas
Joint Unified School District in Sierra
County, California, unanimously adopted a resolution
stating that the district is “strongly against students
missing school in order to participate in and
work at events promoting cruelty to animals.”
Explained a UAN press release, “The
board’s action comes in the wake of student participation
in a four-day live pigeon shoot in Sierra
County in May, at which thousands of pigeons
were killed. According to humane officers who
monitored the May event, as many as two dozen
students were hired to work at the shoot to pick up
the pigeons who were gunned down by participants.
If the pigeons weren’t dead, the students were
instructed to wring the birds’ necks before throwing
them into barrels,” just as at the notorious Labor
Day pigeon shoot in Hegins, Illinois.
Continued the release, “Some of the students
worked at the shoot during school hours, the
humane officers reported.”
Responded UAN executive director
Deanna Soares, “This resolution sends a strong
signal to families in the Sierra County district that
the school board won’t tolerate students being
exposed to this type of violence and legally questionable
activity during school hours.
More “Link” cases
Barry Herbeck, of Janesville,
Wisconsin, back on May 5 pleaded
guilty to six counts of cruelty in connection
with sexually torturing and killing
cats obtained by fraud. He evidently
hoped he would thereby get only the
four-year prison sentence recommended
by the prosecution, instead of the much
stiffer sentence he might have expected
had he faced charges requiring his two
small children to testify. On July 6,
however, Herbeck’s 37th birthday,
Rock County Circuit Judge Richard
Werner took note of his 20-year history
of convictions for first-degree sexual
assault, misdemeanor battery, burglary,
theft, and child molestation, then hit
him with 12 years in prison––the longest
sentence ever meted out for cruelty to
animals in a U.S. case. Herbeck must
serve at least four years before becoming
eligible to apply for parole, and may
automatically seek parole after nine
A case similarly mingling
alleged offenses against children and
animals broke on July 1, Rachel L.
S w a r n s and Michael Cooper of T h e
New York Times reported, when “In a
dingy Brooklyn apartment filled with
pornographic videos and magazines,
New York City police uncovered what
they described as a group of pedophiles
who repeatedly raped and sodomized
their own children, nieces, and
nephews, even while some of the children
were being monitored by the city’s
child welfare agency.” The apartment,
Swarns and Cooper continued, was also
full of “cats, dogs, and dozens of hamsters,”
along with animal filth. Arrested
were Daniel Robacker, 40; his companion
Theresa Fremgen, 35; C u r t i s
Elam Jones, age not given; and
Fremgen’s brothers, Ezra Fremgen,
25, and Vincent Fremgen, 28.
Robacker and Theresa Fremgen were
reportedly “developmentally disabled.”