Mental Evaluation Ordered For Suspect in Florida Cat Killings

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Mental Evaluation Ordered For Suspect in Florida Cat Killings

[See also Cut and Died]

By Luis Andres Henao, David Ovalle,
June 2009

A teen accused of killing 19 cats must be held for 48 hours as doctors conduct a psychological evaluation, a judge ruled

Alleged cat mutilator Tyler Weinman is no stranger to feline anatomy -- he dissected the animals last year in class at Palmetto High.

That revelation came Monday, the same day a judge ordered Weinman, 18, to stay in jail for 48 hours pending a psychiatric evaluation. He is accused of slaughtering 19 house cats across South Miami-Dade.

Palmetto High anatomy teacher Lynn Evans, a self-described animal lover, said she was shocked to learning her quiet former student had been arrested and charged with cruelty to animals.

''I don't know how we can bridge the gap between a controlled [classroom] situation, to what this disturbed young man has done,'' Evans said in an interview, adding that about 8,000 of her students have dissected cats during her 24 years of teaching anatomy.

The investigation into the mutilated cats -- found strewn throughout South Miami-Dade -- has for weeks riveted South Florida, terrorized pet owners and sparked massive media attention.

Weinman was charged Sunday with 19 counts of felony animal cruelty, 19 counts of improperly disposing of an animal body and four counts of burglary.

Evaluation Ordered

Clad in a padded gown for inmates considered potentially suicidal, Weinman made his first appearance in Miami-Dade Circuit Court Monday via closed-circuit television from jail. The courtroom was packed with local and national journalists.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mindy Glazer ordered Weinman held on $249,500 bond, and ordered a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he is a risk to himself or others. If and when he is released, he will be on house arrest, monitored via an electronic ankle bracelet.

''I'm concerned about his safety and the safety of the community,'' Glazer said.

David W. Macey, Weinman's attorney, objected to the judge's decision, saying he was not given enough time to prepare for the hearing. He also complained that his young client had been interviewed by police for more than eight hours.

''I can say the investigation is being led by a lynch-mob mentality, steam-rolling Mr. Weinman's constitutional rights,'' Macey said after the hearing.

The judge also kept sealed an arrest warrant detailing how Weinman was identified as a suspect. There is a ''potential ongoing criminal investigation,'' Assistant State Attorney Michael Von Zamft told the court.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle praised the community for calling in with tips.

''I'm glad everybody rallied around [solving] these brutal and grotesque crimes,'' she said. ``Now, we need to make sure if the others are involved, they are also apprehended and held accountable.''

Back at Palmetto High, students and staff were still stunned by Weinman's arrest.

Anatomy Class

Evans, the anatomy teacher, said that dissecting dead cats -- the packaged corpses are distributed by biological supply companies -- is common because the animals have an internal body structure similar to humans.

''Decades of people in the anatomy field have started with dissecting cats,'' she said.

Investigators, still chasing leads that could net more arrests, were mum on whether Weinman's classroom training played a role in the teen's alleged crime spree. Prosecutors say they have a suspected motive, but cannot release details.

''We are aware that he attended the anatomy class,'' said Von Zamft, who declined to comment further because of the ongoing probe.

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