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Gazette Premium Content EDITORIAL: If convicted, abuse suspect should get maximum penalty

The Gazette editorial Updated: February 4, 2014 at 9:42 am

Right before Christmas, The Gazette carried a touching story of Andrew Davenport who didn't think twice about resuscitating a lifeless kitten caught in a house fire in Security. The rescue was a dramatic example of humanity's compassion toward domestic animals.

Last week we had a disturbing example of another kind, which provided a dramatic example of the evil that can reside in the human soul.

Police say Robert Heckmann, 25, of Pueblo was arrested after allegedly videotaping himself torturing and killing a kitten. After the killing, police say Heckmann texted his feelings of joy and jubilation. Some texts police link to the dead kitten are too gruesome to describe, but the following shows the potential mindset of the suspect.

"I feel like a (expletive) sick person .?.?. You feel euphoric and just don't care what else is going on. A huge natural high. That's why killing is addictive. I haven't had that high on so long, and I'm pissed it's already over."

The young kitten's body was found at Heckmann's house, along with another potential feline victim. Heckmann is free on $5,000 bail, which is almost too low to believe.

This incident can't be taken lightly.

Any suspect who describes an addiction to killing - anyone who allegedly gets "high" on torture and death - should be considered volatile and dangerous.

Ending an animal's life is not the same as taking a human life and no one should conflate the two. No one is talking about a life sentence or a million-dollar bond, and the most serious penalty for a crime of this nature is 18 months in prison. Yet, those who believe life is precious, no matter what, understand that depravity can begin with violence toward small creatures. It was not a human life that was taken, but the pleasure this man apparently took in ending a life could have implications difficult to fathom. Serial killers Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz and Jeffrey Dahmer all tortured and/or killed animals before preying on humans.

"There is a strong correlation between animal cruelty and other forms of violence. This type of violence worries me," said Joe Stafford, director of Animal Law enforcement for the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. "We've seen many cases in which those convicted of animal cruelty go on to commit other acts of violence, such as domestic violence, child abuse or elder abuse. Our main concern is to see justice done on behalf of Loki (the kitten). While it's up to the courts to decide, we hope Heckmann is prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also wants Pueblo authorities to prosecute Heckmann to the fullest extent of the law. PETA's release said, in part: "Medical experts and top law-enforcement officials agree: Cruelty to animals is a big red flag. Many serial rapists and murderers have a background of abusing animals. The link between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence is undeniable. In fact, the FBI uses reports of cruelty in gauging the threat potential of suspected and known criminals, and the American Psychiatric Association identifies such crimes as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders. It's vital that animal abusers receive intervention to prevent their violence from escalating."

We concur with the local Human Society and PETA. If due process proves this suspect tortured and killed a kitten, and did so to get high, he should get the maximum penalty allowed by law.

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