On Saturday, April 11, two students from the College were fishing approximately 15 minutes away from Middlebury along the New Haven River and discovered a clearing with 15 to 20 mutilated, dismembered dogs. The students, Matt and Michael, who requested their full names not be disclosed, immediately reported the incident to the Middlebury Police Department (MPD), who directed them to speak with the Vermont State Police (VSP). The case is currently under investigation and the VSP are working with the owner of the property to uncover what occurred.
“There were paws—cut-up paws with fur on them—scattered around, skulls of different animals. Most of them, I thought, looked like dog skulls,” Michael said.
The students had been participating in the Otter Creek Classic, an annual fishing tournament organized by local shop Middlebury Mountaineer. Both confirmed they had been fishing alone for approximately three and a half hours, before getting off the river to walk back to their cars.
“We got out in someone’s yard, which is usually fine to do if you’re fishing,” Matt said.
The two came across a clearing, where they found the decaying carcass of an animal.
“At first, it looked like [another] animal may have brought [the carcass] to this spot to eat it or kill it. We walked about ten more steps and saw another, and we realized this whole yard is littered with what looks like dog skeletons. We both thought these had to be dogs, just looking at the skulls and teeth,” Matt said.
“We became skeptical of who did this and whether it was an animal or a person,” he continued.
The two stated the bodies appeared to be in different stages of decay.
“Some looked like they had been there for months, and some were still furry, fleshy, bloody—maybe a couple weeks [old],” Michael said.
“It wasn’t always a full body,” Matt added, “A lot of times it was bones and bits and pieces of bodies scattered everywhere.”
The way in which the dogs had been dismembered indicated to Michael that another animal could not be responsible.
“They were not eaten by another animal. I knew humans did that,” he said.
Next to the clearing was a house that both Michael and Matt described as being disheveled. The smell from the decaying animals was incredibly potent and both students remain convinced that the owner of the property had to know about the clearing.
“If you were living there, you would have to know [about the carcasses],” Matt said. “The smell was horrible.”
He added, “The thought entered my mind that someone depraved and sick might live there.”
Michael also described an abandoned school bus that was near the house and the clearing.
“It was the last thing I wanted to see at that momemt,” he said.
At that point, the two students immediately returned to their car. Upon their return to the College, Michael went to the MPD and the case was quickly handed to the VSP.
“I expressed my concern that it might be a young sociopath who is struggling to get a hold of himself. Violence against animals is a telltale sign,” said Michael.
Current research supports the link between violence towards animals and violence and/or killing of humans. In a study of tendencies of serial killers, Wright and Hensley (2003) discovered that more that 21 percent of their sample of 354 had reported cases of animal cruelty. Ressler et. al (1998) also indicated that a concerning number of the 36 convinced murderers they studied admitted to committing cruelty towards animals. Likewise, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Band & Harpold, 1999), the American Psychological Association (1999), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (1999) have all published checklists for warning signs of school shooters. All of the lists include violence towards animals.
The police have asked that people use discretion when discussing the case as it is currently under investigation.
Howver, Michael indicated to the Campus that the police seemed concerned and were taking the investigation seriously. Michael also indicated that the police would keep him posted on any developments in the case.
Now that the case has been passed on to the police, both students are grappling with what they saw.
“It was by far the most disturbing thing I have ever seen,” said Michael.
He described the moment after they had discovered the dogs as “panic” as he made sure no one was watching them. Both students made it back to their car without incident.
Students are urged to report any leads they may have or concerns they have to the Middlebury Police Department or the Vermont State Police.