MESA, AZ - An alert neighbor helped lead to an arrest involving an animal cruelty case where several cats were found dead and mutilated in Mesa last month.
Scott Andrew Graham, 39, faces charges of theft, mistreatment of animals, and two counts of cruelty to animals, according to Mesa police Sgt. Anthony Landato.
Police said Wednesday that Graham was released, but as of this time, the reasoning is unclear.
A Mesa city spokesman told ABC15 that three mutilated cats were found against a wall behind a fast food restaurant near Alma School and Guadalupe roads.
In a Tuesday news release, Landato said that on August 8, surveillance video captured a suspect taking a cat from the roof of a vehicle outside a home in the same neighborhood, placing the cat in a vehicle and driving away.
The cat was found several days later behind a strip mall, dead and mutilated.
Another dead and mutilated cat was also found at the same location.
Landato said friends and neighbors viewed the videotape, and on August 23, a neighbor spotted the suspect vehicle and tried to chase the driver on his bicycle.
The suspect threw a cat out the car window and fled the neighborhood.
The Arizona Humane Society had offered a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the person responsible.
On September 3, Ben Smith spotted the suspect vehicle again in the neighborhood and was able to follow the vehicle and get a license number.
The information was given to police who tracked the vehicle to a home in the neighborhood.
Graham reportedly lives with his parents there but was not home at the time.
When contacted by police he admitted that he had taken 30 to 40 cats from the area, but denied that he hurt any of them.
Landato said the suspect told investigators he just played with the cats and released them in a different area.
"It's ridiculous. We've got security footage of him petting a cat, picking it up, putting it in his car and a week later it's completely mutilated," said Smith, who doesn't believe Graham's story.
Evidence at the home and in the vehicle, along with the surveillance video, led to Graham's arrest, Landato said.
According to police, when officers showed up to Graham's home they found clothing, gloves and car floor mats covered in cat hair.
Court paperwork also reveals officer found possible blood and noticed a strong "odor of dead animal" coming from the trunk of the car.
When police asked Graham about it, he said he left a car window open and that several cats got inside his car and started fighting.
Neighbors reportedly told police that a total of 12 cats had gone missing in the area and three were found dead under suspicious circumstances.
Mark Phipps is worried about what happened to his missing cat, Oreo.
Phipps also doesn't believe Graham is telling the truth about not hurting any cats.
"If you took my cat, gave him love and then released him somewhere, tell me where you released him so we can go find him because we think he's dead," said Phipps.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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