A live cat was found half-buried in concrete in Arizona, an act that the man who rescued it believes to be a threatening message from a pro-polygamy religious group, according to local reports.
The kitten was found encased in solid concrete inside a metal tube in Colorado City, Ariz., a major center for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect whose members practice polygamy.
In previous incidents, dead cats have been left on ex-FLDS member Isaac Wyler’s property, according to Andrew Chatwin, who discovered the trapped feline while he was building a horse shelter at Wyler’s home.
A YouTube video shows a cat that was partially buried in concrete in Colorado City, Arizona.
“It’s been going on for years,” Chatwin, also a former FLDS member, told the video site Right This Minute, “and I’ve recorded up to a dozen dead cats put into his horse corral. I’ve recorded dead animals put into his truck.”
In a video, shot by Chatwin on May 31 and posted to YouTube on July 1, the cat is seen buried up to its head in concrete, crying out in pain. Chatwin said he had to cut through the metal tube and is then seen chipping away bits of concrete around the animal’s body with a hammer.
Mangled and emaciated but still breathing, the freed feline was taken to an animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, where it died a few days later.
Both Wyler and Chatwin have spoken publicly against the church and its former controversial leader, Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs was convicted last year of two felony counts for sexually assaulting two underage girls he had married. He is currently serving a life sentence plus 20 years at a prison in Palestine, Texas, but is said to still maintain control of the FLDS-run communities.
Chatwin, who has frequently been at odds with the church since leaving it 13 years ago, said he believes the act was done by FLDS members in an effort to force ex-church members out of town.
“We’ve in the past experienced a lot of hostility from the FLDS,” Chatwin said. “It was a message sent to Isaac Wyler to try and intimidate him.”
Chatwin said he reported the incident to the Colorado City Marshal’s Office.
“[The officer] kind of chuckled and laughed a bit, and then he said that if it was up to him, he’d just throw dirt over [the cat],” Chatwin said. “And this is coming from a city marshal that’s in the FLDS Church.”
Trish Carter, public information specialist at the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office told msnbc.com that her office was notified of the incident on May 31, but did not respond because it was under the jurisdiction of the Colorado City Marshal’s Office.
“We often investigate cases of animal cruelty, but they were in charge of it, so we didn’t respond,” Carter said.
The Sheriff's Office took over patrols in Colorado City last week from the Marshal's Office at the state's behest.
“Through the attorney general’s office, we now have partrols in the area, and anything that’s reported to our agency we are taking seriously,” Carter said.
Neither the FLDS or the Colorado City Marshal’s Office responded to inquiries from msnbc.com.
The incident occurred just weeks before the U.S. Justice Department sued Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, alleging religious discrimination against non-FLDS members, claiming the cities have been violating the federal Fair Housing Act, depriving non-sect members of their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for victims, fines against the towns and court orders prohibiting officials from harassing non-FLDS members, The Associated Press reported in late June.
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