[MUSIC PLAYING] BRAD CONNORS: I grew up in the city of Albany. When I was younger, I always wanted to be a police officer, serve the community which I grew up in. I think it's important for someone to help their city by when they get old, and maybe from a police officer, or a firefighter, you got to give back to the community. And I think that's a great way to do it, is to give your service.
I've been a detective in my unit for the last seven years. Within the unit, it covers many types of crimes, one being animal cruelty investigations. It can be very rewarding. But people do crazy things. On a weekly basis, I say to myself, I've seen everything. I've said, I've seen everything 15, 20 times.
SPEAKER 1 (OVER PHONE): 911, what's your emergency?
SPEAKER 2 (OVER PHONE): Yeah, actually I'm calling-- my neighbor just came home from work and he was outside barefoot, and he looks fairly confused. He's cut up.
SPEAKER 1 (OVER PHONE): He's cut up?
SPEAKER 2 (OVER PHONE): Yeah, his hands are cut, his arms were like-- he was cut up.
SPEAKER 1 (OVER PHONE): OK, we'll send somebody over.
BRAD CONNORS: On December 21st, the Albany Police Department received a couple calls pertaining to a male. He had blood on his arms and hands.
JENNIFER MCCANNEY: The defendant was crawling around outside with his shoes off, just acting very strange. And she had noticed that his cat carrier had been placed out into the garbage.
BRAD CONNORS: We received another call for a deceased cat found in the rear yard of the location. Two officers responded.
JENNIFER MCCANNEY: And then proceeded to go talk to the defendant. He said that they had been having a troubled relationship, and in kind of jest said, yeah, I killed my cat.
BRAD CONNORS: Surprisingly, people say things they did when knowing it may get them in trouble.
JENNIFER MCCANNEY: When asked about the scratches on his arm, he said that he had fallen off his bicycle.
BRAD CONNORS: One witness said she heard what appeared to be a struggle in his apartment. The cat was obviously in distress, with a screeching noise.
JENNIFER MCCANNEY: So all of these put together were pretty indicative that he was the one that committed the crime. The police arrested him at the scene and then the animal control officer took the cat and placed him into evidence.
P. DAVID SOARES: The most important thing that I think has evolved over the years is certainly the seriousness that first responders are now treating these cases with. Because before, it would be, OK, there's a dog or cat or an animal that's dead on the side of the road, or in someone's backyard, and it was easily dismissed. Now they're arriving at a crime scene and they're treating these scenes as a crime scenes, and because we're going to hold someone accountable.
BRAD CONNORS: We know animal cruelty is a gateway crime to other crimes.
ELIZABETH BUCKLES: There is good evidence from studies that people who are cruel to animals are much more likely to go on and do the same thing to people. And this has been statistically proven by the FBI.
P. DAVID SOARES: If you look at just about every single mass murder, it starts out with harming a vulnerable animal. And if you're prosecuting that individual for this crime, you're drawing attention to that individual and possibly preventing future crimes from happening.
JENNIFER MCCANNEY: You cannot prosecute a person solely on their admission alone. You must have corroboration. And we could only get that from the Cornell Diagnostic Center. The cat went to Cornell, where a necropsy was done by Doctor Elizabeth Buckles.
ELIZABETH BUCKLES: At Cornell, at the vet school, we have an obligation to do service for the state of New York, and that includes support for the legal system. Our job is to be objective and use our skills as pathologists, as veterinarians, to say, this is what we think happened. We did a thorough examination of the limbs, of the skin, of the skull, palpated all of the bones to make sure there were no other fractures. We looked for signs of other traumas, if there had been a long-term illness. We look at the tissue underneath the microscope to make sure there isn't something so subtle that we missed it. And then we brought our attention to the wound, which was so obvious.
JENNIFER MCCANNEY: Once I received the report from Dr. Buckles from Cornell, she was able to tell us definitively there was no natural cause for his death. This was a man-made wound of some sort. We relied heavily on the report and a grand jury voted to charge the defendant with aggravated animal cruelty. Once he had been arrested and negotiations were occurring with his attorney, other theories started to be presented by them, that he loved his cat, that he wouldn't have hurt his cat. He doesn't know what happened to the cat and that the cat's body was probably scavenged by some animal.
ELIZABETH BUCKLES: I work with wildlife, so I see a lot of scavenging. The wound was so symmetrical and so targeted and not in an area that a scavenger would have started with.
JENNIFER MCCANNEY: That just kind of blew their whole theory out of the water.
P. DAVID SOARES: You have people that have credibility and they take the stand. And then you start to see the lights being turned on in the minds of the jurors. They're like, Oh, OK, wow, that really did happen and that was really, really bad. It makes the case.
BRAD CONNORS: I feel much more comfortable when I'm dealing with an investigation where you have medical, concrete evidence that can't be disputed as far as what happened to a particular person or animal. And then you put that with all your other evidence, and that's when I think you have a favorable outcome when it goes to trial.
JENNIFER MCCANNEY: The jury found the defendant guilty and he was sentenced to the maximum, which is two years. His neighbors are safe and it's one less person that we have to be concerned about doing other things to people and other animals.
BRAD CONNORS: I think it satisfies the community to let them know that this person is not out there causing harm to anyone or any pet. It wouldn't be possible if we didn't have that collective effort.
ELIZABETH BUCKLES: I was glad that I was able to present truthfully what I saw and people were able to use that to do their job.
P. DAVID SOARES: Over the years, I can say emphatically, we would not be able to make some of the most complicated cases. We wouldn't have been able to support them, we would not have been able to even present them, had it not been for the forensic work that was being done by our friends over at Cornell. In New York state, you're very fortunate to have a university that has this kind of resource. Their commitment to the community is beyond educating the masses. Their commitment to the community is also public safety and public health.
ELIZABETH BUCKLES: Well, we want everyone to be safe, whether it's an animal or a person.
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