Suicides of suspects may be trend in animal cases
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:
MISSOULA–A coroner’s jury on April 16, 2010 ruled that
accused cat torturer Gary Lee Bassett, 63, shot himself on February
4, 2010, seconds after Missoula police with a warrant for his
arrest on felony charges kicked his door open.
Bassett was among four animal cruelty and neglect suspects
who were found to have shot themselves in February 2010, while
accused in cases that provoked community outrage. Criminal suspects
in cases that bring strong public shame have long been known to be at
steeply elevated risk of suicide. Crimes against animals have
usually not been associated with suicide, but the flurry of recent
cases suggest that this may be changing.
Responding to a domestic disturbance call at Bassett’s home
on February 1, Missoula police rescued a badly injured kitten, who
was later euthanized. Found abandoned in November 2009, the kitten
had been nursed back to health and adoped to Bassett by Missoula
The case received prominent news coverage, naming Bassett,
on February 2.
Returning with a search warrant on February 2, the
investigating officers found that Bassett was uncooperative and
heavily armed, and “contacted mental health professionals,”
reported Tristan Scott of The Missoulian. A February 3 search
facilitated by the intervention of mental health counsellors produced
evidence that Basset might have abused another cat, who was missing.
Bassett shot himself one day after sheriff’s deputies in
Union County, Florida, found the remains of Jeannette Lyn Brown,
53, and Tina Marie Vetterlein, 39, at their Lake Butler residence.
“Evidence reveals a double suicide,” the Union County sheriff’s
office said in a prepared statement. “Autopsies revealed that each
subject died from a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head
from separate firearms.”
Brown and Vetterlein were each charged with 14 counts of
animal cruelty and 14 counts of animal abandonment on September 28,
2009. Deputies on September 7 found two dead horses on their
property. “Another horse died after being removed from the property
and three others had to be euthanized,” recounted Gainesville Sun
staff writer Karen Voyles. The Florida Department of Agriculture &
Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement on
September 8 impounded 10 horses, two dogs, a donkey, a goat, and
a bull, all severely emaciated.
Brown and Vetterlein apparently shot themselves on November
16, 2009, two days after the Union County sheriff’s department last
communicated with them about the neglect case.
In Washington, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s
Office and sheriff’s department did not disclose the identity of a
56-year-old man who shot himself on February 24, 2010, nearly four
months after shooting a neighbor’s golden retriever in early
November. The suspect was charged with first degree cruelty on
February 2. A bench warrant for his arrest was issued on February
19, after he did not appear for arraignment.