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Additional animal abuse case comes to light after Salem man's arrest in separate cases

A Salem couple said their cat was found dead under circumstances suspiciously similar to the suspect's other alleged victims.

SALEM, Ore. — A Salem man is behind bars and accused of three separate instances of animal abuse and mutilation within the last month. But neighbors are seeing signs that there may have been other victims that have yet to be made an official part of the case.

At 7-years-old and 18 pounds, Willow was more than just a cat to David Johnson and Michelle Wilson.

"He was kind of like a security blanket to me and my support cat," said Wilson. "We've lost a few close family members these last couple of months."

When they first got word on May 11 that Willow had been found dead next to an elementary school by a passing jogger, they assumed it must have been a wild animal.

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"We figured maybe coyotes got him. So we kind of drew that conclusion for about a week," Wilson said.

But something seemed off to the couple. The jogger who found Willow took pictures to document what he'd seen. Later, he saw something that set off alarm bells, prompting him to reach out once more.

"It didn't seem right, but I kept going through my mind... what would do this?" Johnson said. "Then we saw the report."

Last Friday, Salem police announced they arrested and charged 26-year-old Micah Smith on a charge of first-degree aggravated animal abuse and five counts of first-degree animal abuse. 

Salem police said they first received a report regarding apparent animal abuse on May 12. A patrol officer responded to a business parking lot and found a pigeon that had been "decapitated and disemboweled" and graffiti with the word "redrum" nearby. "Redrum" is murder spelled backward, an apparent reference to the Stephen King story The Shining.

A few days later, Salem police reported finding a dead crow that had been similarly mutilated and positioned next to graffiti. On May 19, another officer was called out to the same place and found a medium-sized house cat that had been beheaded and mutilated.

It was an article about Smith's arrest that had caught the jogger's attention, and he let Johnson and Wilson know about his suspicions.

"After hearing what had been done to these other animals... it sounded very similar to what had happened to our cat, and the position in which our cat was found," Wilson said.

After that, Johnson and Wilson filed a police report as well. They said investigators told them that Willow's injuries fit the pattern.

"I guess... the words he used, there were too many similarities, he said," Wilson said.

Salem police confirmed to KGW that they received the report of another mutilated cat, but said that they couldn't comment further on an active investigation.

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