Sealed affidavit in cat killings to be released

MIAMI — The sealed arrest affidavit of a teenager accused of killing more than a dozen cats in south Miami-Dade County will be released early next month, a judge ordered Wednesday.

After an evidentiary hearing, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Thornton ordered that Tyler Hayes Weinman’s sealed affidavit be released July 6, the same day the teen is scheduled to be arraigned on charges related to the gruesome crimes. The affidavit, which details evidence against Weinman, will not be redacted, except for the addresses of law enforcement officers.

“I don’t know that one side won and one side lost,” said attorney Scott Ponce, who represented The Miami Herald and a CBS affiliate in their efforts to get the affidavit released. “I think that with the assistance of the judge, (we) found something that accommodates both sides — the state’s desire to not impede or harm their investigation, and the public and press’ right to get this as fast as they can in an unredacted form.”

Weinman, 18, has been charged with more than 19 counts each of animal cruelty and improperly disposing of an animal body. He also faces four counts of burglary related to the cat deaths.

Thornton heard from witnesses before issuing his ruling. Both Assistant State Attorney Michael Von Zamft and Ponce were present for the proceedings, which lasted more than two hours. Weinman did not attend Wednesday’s hearing.

Authorities sealed the affidavit after Weinman’s arrest earlier this month, saying law enforcement officers were still investigating the case. The affidavit will be released on July 6, regardless of whether the arraignment is rescheduled.

“We hope to complete the rest of the investigation by July 6, whether there are additional arrests by then or not,” Von Zamft said.

Weinman, who has been released on bond, was arrested this month in connection to a string of cat killings that shocked two South Florida communities. Police believe he is behind the deaths of more than a dozen cats, whose mutilated bodies were often discovered by their horrified owners or other disturbed residents in the Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay neighborhoods this May and June.

Von Zamft argued that some witnesses were concerned about the safety of children in their neighborhoods or retaliatory measures that might be taken if the affidavit was released. After the hearing, he also said officials had received threats against Weinman and some disturbances had cropped up during the investigation.

“We know that there were problems with some vigilantes that started following some police officers, thinking that they were the cat people,” Von Zamft said. “Law enforcement were in danger. They had to stop them and do some things with them, because they were in potential danger.”

Von Zamft would not say whether any “vigilantes” were arrested, and a Miami-Dade Police Department spokesman declined to comment on threats against Weinman.

“That’s not something that we can discuss because this is an ongoing investigation,” Miami-Dade Police Detective Roy Rutland said.