The grisly discovery Thursday of a beheaded baby goat in Algiers turned a serene patch of Brechtel Park into what animal cruelty experts insisted was a felony crime scene.
The slaughtered kid, a 3-month-old pygmy goat named Calvin, appeared to be the victim of a “malicious” decapitation rather than an attack by a predatory animal, according to the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The head of the animal remained missing, as did its 3-month-old brother, Jack.
“There were not any wounds anywhere on this animal but for the obvious exception of its head being removed,” said Amanda Pumilia, humane law enforcement manager for the LA/SPCA. She said there would invariably have been signs of a struggle were another animal involved.
For the past several months, the owner of the animals, Morgana King, has contracted with the park to keep a herd of about a dozen goats in a fenced-off area to help control invasive weeds. The tame, bleating animals have been well-liked, particularly among children, King said.
She did worry about leaving the goats alone in a populated area, she said, but she never expected to find what she did Thursday.
“I’m not surprised that something happened to them, but I’m surprised that this is what happened,” King said. “I had been nervous about leaving them over here because somebody might just think they’re so cute and want to take them — but that’s not what happened.”
The goats had gotten loose from their enclosure when King arrived Thursday and began rounding them up. As she was taking count, she noticed the two baby kids were missing.
Jack was gone, and she found Calvin’s headless carcass behind a small bleacher near the park’s ballfield. Oddly, there was no blood in the area, and King said she couldn’t find “any scene of an attack.”
King told police she had last seen the goats about 1 p.m. Tuesday and had accounted for all of them before leaving the park, said Officer Garry Flot, a New Orleans Police Department spokesman.
King, a goat owner for several years, runs a property maintenance business called Y’Herd Me? that contracts with the park. Her goats graze a restricted portion of the property to clear unwanted vegetation.
King’s husband reported he had a run-in over the weekend with a group of teens who harangued the animals and “would try to mess with the goats through the fence,” said Alicia Haefele, an LA/SPCA spokeswoman.
“He asked them to stop and leave the goats alone, and he said one of the teenagers became very nasty,” Haefele said. “Eventually, the group of kids did leave, but he believes one of the kids in that group might be responsible” for the goat’s killing.
King’s husband, Michael Patrick Welch, a local journalist, later acknowledged that the teenagers came to his mind, but he said he thinks it more likely the goat was attacked by a large dog.
For her part, King said it would be “shocking to think” the teens were involved. “I don’t really think that’s the case,” she said.
Pumilia, of the LA/SPCA, said a dog attack appeared unlikely in this instance. Animals attacked by other animals, she said, receive certain injuries that were not apparent in Calvin’s case. Soft body parts such as the neck and belly could be injured in such an attack, and the targeted creature also might suffer defensive wounds on its front legs or rear end, particularly if it sought to flee.
“The state of (Calvin’s) body would indicate this was done by a person — not by an animal,” Pumilia said.
Pumilia said she couldn’t recall a similar instance of animal mutilation in New Orleans in more than five years with the LA/SPCA.
In 1999, the police arrested a local man, Gilbert Smith, for allegedly beheading and disemboweling a small dog in the St. Bernard housing development. News accounts at the time said Smith had been accused of hanging the animal’s remains from a gazebo in a courtyard where children often played.
Orleans Parish court records show Smith was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1999.
In the current case, the LA/SPCA is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the animal cruelty case. Anyone with information about Calvin’s beheading is asked to call (504) 368-5191, ext. 100.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.