Suspect's arrest eases fears of girl whose dog was beheaded
An arrest and overwhelming kindness from around the world have brought relief and hope to a St. Paul girl.
By Mary Lynn Smith, Star Tribune
Crystal Brown hopes that her nightmares will stop now that St. Paul police have arrested the man they believe decapitated her therapy dog and left its head in a gift box on her doorstep.
On Thursday, police recovered evidence that connects the man to the crime, Sgt. Jim Gray said. "He admitted to being there [when the dog was beheaded]," Gray said.
The suspect, 24, was jailed Thursday on suspicion of making terroristic threats. The Star Tribune isn't using his name because he hasn't yet been charged; that may happen as early as today and could include animal cruelty charges as well.
"I think I can sleep a lot better now," Crystal, 17, said Thursday night. "It will make me feel way safer. Now we can walk around the whole block."
For three weeks, Crystal and her grandmother, Shirley Brown, have lived in fear of the suspect, who lives in the Rice Street-area neighborhood.
Police also are investigating whether others were involved in the crime, which has generated national media attention and an outpouring of sympathy for Crystal in the form of cards, checks and gifts from people around the world.
A world turned upside down
Crystal was devastated last month when Chevy, her 4-year-old Australian shepherd mix, left the house and couldn't be found. She considered the brown-eyed dog her best friend, and leaned on him for comfort and support.
Two weeks after Chevy disappeared, a gift box arrived at the front door addressed to Crystal. Inside, she found valentine candy scattered about and a garbage bag containing Chevy's head.
The suspect is a man whom Crystal had once befriended.
"He really has no one," she said. "He has no friends. I felt sorry for him."
He wanted Crystal to be his girlfriend. But she didn't want that, she said.
The family immediately suspected him in Chevy's killing. "I didn't know what he would do next," Shirley Brown said. "I wanted to stay awake in case someone came in."
Chevy's body was found in a park, and homicide investigators took on the case because of the implied threat against Crystal. She said she was more scared for her new puppy than for herself.
But she said that she tired of the ache inside as she lay in bed each night, imagining what Chevy's last moments were like.
"That dog was her heart and soul," said Shirley Brown. "She's never related to people. She's been so hurt by others ... Her father abandoned her. Her mother has had problems with drugs."
Said Crystal: "I was always the delinquent child that nobody wanted or liked. I didn't have friends. I lived in a tough neighborhood. I really didn't want to be a tough person. But I made my own problems."
Crystal went through a drug phase, and has been diagnosed with depression. She has bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder, her grandmother said. Crystal "had so many problems that people didn't want her around," Shirley Brown said. "She just needed a push in the right direction and a firm hand."
And Crystal needed Chevy.
"He and I had a lot of history together," Crystal said. "He listened. And he never stopped listening."
Losing Chevy turned her world inside out. Life was harsh; people seemed cruel.
The touch of humanity
But sitting at the kitchen table this week, Crystal opened stacks of cards, letters and gifts sent from people around the world.
The story was covered on radio and TV and in newspapers across the country. The TV show "America's Most Wanted" posted the case on its website, the first time in recent memory that it had featured a crime against a dog.
"It was cruel and beyond the unusual," said Christopher Brown, the show's managing editor. And anyone capable of such a crime might easily turn next time to people, he said.
A $2,500 reward offered by the Humane Society of the United States quickly mushroomed with donations, growing to $20,000.
"This by far was the biggest response to a reward that we've initiated," said Dale Bartlett, the Humane Society's deputy manager for animal cruelty issues.
Reading the letters and opening packages sent from people around the country and from as far as Australia -- heartfelt notes, photos of pets, dog toys and treats, gift cards and checks -- Crystal and Shirley Brown were touched by the kindness of strangers.
"I don't think everybody is bad anymore," Crystal said. "This is so amazing. ... It makes me feel inspired. People can make a difference."
Staff writer Paul Gutafson contributed to this report. Mary Lynn Smith • 651-298-1550 • mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
"If you look long enough for an argument against reason, you will find it" ~Moneyball
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness