Unsolved animal killings haunt New Canaan
NEW CANAAN -- Fourteen-year-old Alena Abramowitz ran into her parents' bedroom and cried when she realized the bird she'd spotted on the front porch of her family's New Canaan home had been decapitated.
"I was devastated and sad when I saw it," the New Canaan High School freshman said Thursday evening. "I don't want to see a decapitated bird on my deck."
The family has dealt with an injured bird here and there over the 16 years they've lived in New Canaan, as any family living in a glass faced-house tucked away in a forest of tall trees might. But the bird Alena found at 8 a.m. Saturday was clearly decapitated by a human being, according to Alena's father, Roy Abramowitz.
And it's just the latest in a string of unsettling occurrences involving dead animals left for New Canaan residents, according to police. On Oct. 9, a senior at New Canaan High found a dead bird placed in her car, which she had left unlocked with the windows rolled up.
Five days later, Elizabeth Ruksznis of Laurel Road -- the same winding road the Abramowitzes live on, in the sylvan northeastern corner of one of Connecticut's most idyllic towns -- found a cleanly severed cat's head in their driveway. A black cat that was known in the neighborhood to be afraid of people, and was reported missing by a neighbor at about the same time.
Then on Oct. 16, the first decapitated bird was found by the Farley family at their home on Autumn Lane, near the center of town. At first, Chris Farley, a 47-year-old mother of six, said she didn't think much about finding the animal, and tossed the head into the woods. But then her daughter mentioned the dead bird in her friend's car and the severed cat head another friend's mother had found in their Laurel Road driveway.
"A light bulb went off in my head," Farley said Thursday evening, adding that the realization was very concerning. She asked, "Who would decapitate an animal?"
There's a common theory that links serial killers with earlier crimes, beginning with doing harm to small animals.
"People with some underlying, extreme psychological problems have been known to abuse animals and even kill animals," said New Canaan Police Department spokeswoman Carol Ogrinc. "It's that lack of a conscience, which sometimes can lead to harming humans in the same way."
And that's not something that's gone unnoticed by the people churning whispers through the quiet, close-knit town's rumor mill. Families mentioned hearing a wide range of theories -- from the idea that teenagers could have decapitated the cat after a car accident as a prank, to gossip that several other birds have been found but not reported. It's hard to tell what's gossip and what's substantiated, said Farley, who noted that the police are keeping mum since the incidents are currently under investigation.
"It's certainly something the kids are talking about," said New Canaan High School Principal Bryan Luizzi.
The idea that something that malevolent could occur in a town like New Canaan, which bills itself as "The Next Station to Heaven," is hard to wrap one's mind around, said Ruksznis, a New Canaan native.
And it's been enough to put the people involved on edge.
"The girls are definitely disturbed by it, and they'd like to see the person who did it get caught," Farley said. "And I think a lot of my friends are bothered by it, because obviously when you start severing the heads of animals, it takes everything to another level."
It's not the kind of thing that happens in New Canaan, where street lights illuminate large, well-manicured lawns enveloping multi-million-dollar homes, and moms drop off their children at top-notch schools in the morning. Ogrinc said that she's never dealt with anything like this in the 26 years she's worked on the local police force.
It's clear to police that the three of the incidents are related, but the fourth incident, at the Abramowitz home, seems to be separate. Roy Abramowitz, who is seeking a seat on New Canaan's Town Council, suggests it might be politically motivated.
Ogrinc said she thinks it's likely the four cases are the end of the string.
"I would have to think that if someone found one even three weeks ago, they would now report it. As far as any in the future, I would hope not," she said.
In the meantime, the police department is working diligently to track down the responsible party or parties, who would likely face felony charges for cruelty to animals as well as disorderly conduct "at the very least," according to Ogrinc.
"I think something like this is really disturbing anywhere, but this is a fairly safe town," she said. "The violent crime rate is not high. And that's a violent act to do that -- even to an animal, which is why this is pretty shocking."
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