K-9 Units and the aid of dogs in police work is no news to us, but is it possible that other heroic pets have distinct capabilities to aid in bringing justice? The answer is yes. As of late, there have been a handful of cases resolved with the help of cats, birds, and even deer. With the help of animal forensics, the following murder cases have been resolved with the aid of some furry companions.
Number Ten: Dog Forensics Trace Killer. For four years, the murderer of 18-year-old Shantay Huntington walked among us. Killed in 2006, the young girl was found wrapped in a bed sheet and shower curtain, secured with duct tape, in the woods of Loxahatchee, Florida. After three years, the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Forensic Unit at the University of California tested the canine hairs found on the bed sheet that held young Huntington and traced them to a family of dogs owned by Liliana Toledo. Toledo led investigators to her estranged brother-in-law, Guillermo Romero, who owned two pups from the dogs’ litter. The positive match of the dog hairs to his pups and the human DNA found at the murder scene was enough to convict Romero for first-degree murder, to which he pleaded guilty of manslaughter in 2013.
Number Nine: Sick ‘Em, Boys. As a result of gang violence in South London, 16-year-old Oluwaseyi Ogunyemi, or “Seyi”, was attacked by two dogs before being stabbed and beaten to death. The two dogs were also injured in the attack, bearing several knife wounds. One of the attack dogs, being badly injured, left a trail of blood from the attack scene to the dog’s owner, who fled the scene. Found with “blood on his hands” (literally), Johnson received a life sentence as well as a conviction of attempted murder of Seyi’s companion Hurui Hiyabu, who he had stabbed nine times.
Number Eight: The Cockatoo Conviction. It’s a sad day, indeed, when a man’s best friend has to die trying to protect his owner. In this case, however, man’s best friend was a white-crested cockatoo who not only died in owner Kevin Butler’s defense but also led police to the pair’s murderer. Evidence showed that Daniel Torres, accompanied by his brother Johnny Serna, entered Butler’s home in Pleasant Grove, Texas, and killed Butler and his cockatoo. Scattered feathers across the scene indicated that the cockatoo put up a fight in his owner’s defense, but alas, had been stabbed with a fork and was missing a leg. Butler was found stabbed, beaten, and stabbed. However, his cockatoo bore evidence that convicted the two brothers. After testing the blood found on the cockatoo’s beak and confronting the brothers that it matched Torres’s DNA, officials received a confession from Serna that his brother had slashed Butler’s throat while he searched the house for valuables.
Number Seven: The Dog DNA. Victim Dane Williams’ body was found discarded in a San Diego alley in January 2008. Williams was found to have been drugged, sexually assaulted, and murdered. He was wrapped in a blanket, that soon proved evidence to link Philong Huynh to the murder. Dog hairs from the blanket were discovered to be a DNA match from Huynh’s mother’s dog, but it wasn’t until a similar crime committed 17 months later that the sexual predator was convicted. Condemned by the same hairs found on the scene of the repeat crime, Huynh received life imprisonment in addition to a 10-year sentence for the second victim.
Number Six: Tinker’s Deception. Hampshire patron David Guy was found dismembered with the majority of his body missing on Southsea beach in England in 2012. The remainder of his body was wrapped in a shower curtain, which offered police eight cat hairs of evidence. The cat hairs were transferred to a DNA forensics unit in California, as the UK did not yet have a system in place for such studies. The tests led officials to suspect David Hilder’s cat, Tinker. Along with this evidence, Guy’s blood was found in Hilder’s Southsea apartment upon inspection. Hilder received a life sentence, and the case stood as a breakthrough for featuring “the first successful use of cat DNA in the United Kingdom.”