Three discoveries of mutilated animals have been made in Sacramento in the past three days, and officials say they are investigating whether at least some of the incidents are related to religious practices and copycat perpetrators spurred on by a wave of publicity over the beheadings.
In recent months, authorities have reported at least nine separate discoveries of livestock ranging from cattle to lambs to chickens beheaded and dumped in different areas of the city, sometimes accompanied by haunting items such as blood-soaked $1 bills or tea candles.
The latest case came Wednesday morning when a Sacramento Bee reporter investigating the killings found a bag of decapitated chickens along the railroad tracks near 20th and W streets. The night before, authorities reported finding a mutilated rabbit and headless chickens near 20th and U streets, and on Monday two dead chickens were found in a box along a bike trail between Greenhaven and the Little Pocket.
The incidents have unnerved many and baffled investigators, who say they are seeking reward money to help spur more tips about the beheadings.
Gina Knepp, head of Sacramento’s Front Street Animal Shelter, said the city is applying for $5,000 in reward money from the Humane Society of the United States in hopes of getting a break from the public. She added that she hopes to have an answer quickly about whether the reward application will be approved.
Meanwhile, she said, authorities are operating under the theory that at least some of the killings may be tied to Santerian or other religious rites that include animal sacrifices.
“The most recent case, I will say, involves what appears to be some type of ritual, who knows what kind of practice,” she said, referring to the Tuesday night case in which the chickens had their feet cut off and stuffed into their bodies.
But, she added, others may be simply a case of copycats following the growing news coverage of the incidents.
The discovery Wednesday did not appear to be a fresh kill, said animal control Officer John Sorrels, who responded to the scene to investigate.
The carcasses were in a blood-soaked brown paper bag tucked inside a black plastic garbage bag. It was on the ground on the west side of the railroad tracks and across the street from a YMCA child development center and a church.
The chickens were being buzzed by a large swarm of horseflies and had visible maggots on their bodies, and Sorrels said they may have been there for five to six days, although he added that further investigation was needed.
The bag was in a spot where it easily could have been tossed from a car passing on W Street, and was one block from where officials reported the discovery Tuesday night of two bags that contained the rabbit, dead chickens and tea candles.
It also was near what appeared to be a onetime homeless encampment under the W/X Freeway alongside the tracks used by freight trains and Sacramento Regional Transit light-rail trains. The rail lines throughout the area are littered with trash, including soiled diapers, liquor bottles and clothing. Garbage bags and plastic grocery bags line the area along the tracks, although the bag found Wednesday was distinctive because of the smell of the decomposing carcasses and the horseflies.
Knepp asks anyone with information to call (916) 808-8333.
Call The Bee’s Sam Stanton, (916) 321-1091.