Much of Thurston County was on edge this summer as reports of dead and mutilated cats kept coming, with five cats found in the last 10 days of August alone.
And then, suddenly, they stopped.
The last cat was found Aug. 30 off Steilacoom Road Southeast east of Lacey. So far no arrests have been made, though the investigation is ongoing.
“It’s pretty eerie,” said Abby Blackwell, who runs a Facebook group called “Stop the Thurston County Cat Killer” with her sister. “It’s almost worse, because if this person doesn’t strike again, will he or she ever be caught? But then, you don’t want them to strike again.”
Since January, 13 dead cats or parts of cats have been found, often displayed in public places. Authorities say seven killings followed the same pattern, in which the cat’s spine was removed, while the other six didn’t follow the pattern but may be related.
Late last month, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office took over as lead on the investigation. A task force with police from Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the county’s animal control agency was formed to share information on cases in those cities.
Investigators are still chasing down leads, but the number of tips coming in has dropped off this month and right now there are no suspects, said Sgt. Carla Carter with the Sheriff’s Office. Evidence was sent to Washington State Patrol’s crime lab but results have not come back yet.
“One lead looks really good and then it doesn’t pan out. We just keep pushing forward,” Carter said. She said they’ve had calls in recent weeks about more dead cats, but investigators determined those cats were hit by cars or killed by other animals.
This summer’s killings made national news and donations poured in to a reward fund for anyone who can provide information that leads to an arrest. The reward totaled $53,000 as of this week.
On social media, cat owners have shared theories about the killer — maybe he’s a student who stopped once the school year started? — and stories of people trying to lure cats off the street. There also have been rumors of more killings and warnings to not post too much information in case the killer is reading.
Blackwell, who runs the Facebook group, lives in Lacey near Lilly Road, where two cats were found in late August. Since the killings, she has kept her mostly outdoor cat inside.
“Even if this person gets caught, I’m not sure I’d let him out again. I want to, but knowing that people are capable of that is really scary,” she said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.