CHICAGO — A Wicker Park man is accused of killing at least six kittens since May, scouring Craigslist ads after each slaying to buy a look-alike replacement so his mom wouldn’t get suspicious. Prosecutors said he recently told his girlfriend that “he enjoyed killing cats and he had been like that since he was eight years old.”
Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Dale-Schmidt laid out horrifying, gut-wrenching details of the allegations during a bail hearing for Thomas Martel, 22, on Tuesday afternoon. She said some of the kittens were drowned while others may have been microwaved.
“We’re seeing a pattern of going back again and again,” Judge Kelly McCarthy reflected after hearing Dale-Schmidt’s presentation. “Killing an animal, going out and get a replacement. Kill that one, get a replacement. Kill that one, get a replacement. And, unfortunately, this was allowed to continue for a sustained period of time and numerous animals lost their lives.”
She ordered Martel to pay a $7,500 bail deposit to be released on electronic monitoring.
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Martel’s girlfriend, who eventually notified police about the abuse, became aware of a possible problem on May 23, Dale-Schmidt said. An acquaintance sent her a video of Martel throwing a pillowcase into Lake Michigan. She was told the pillowcase contained Martel’s new kitten, Shelly.
Dale-Schmidt said the girlfriend never saw Shelly again, but Martel is not criminally charged with that incident.
Within a couple of days of Shelly’s disappearance, Martel bought another kitten, which he also named Shelly, and an adult male cat named Reggie, Dale-Schmidt said. He invited his girlfriend to come over to his home in the 1500 block of North Wicker Park Avenue on May 26 to meet the new cats.
Everything was fine until June 3, when Martel, drinking and “engaging in narcotics usage,” put the new kitten into a tub of water, Dale-Schmidt said. His girlfriend allegedly saw him pull the unresponsive kitten from the water and try to revive it by performing CPR with his thumb.
The next day, Martel told his girlfriend that the kitten needed more chest compressions, so he took it into the bathroom for about 10 minutes and brought it out dead, said Dale-Schmidt. She said he put the kitten into a bag and tossed it down the trash chute.
Martel immediately searched Craigslist for kittens that looked like the second kitten, eventually finding one in Indiana. He named it Shelly.
Dale-Schmidt alleged that when Martel came home from work on June 5, he told his girlfriend that he wanted to teach the new kitten how to swim. She said he took it into the bathroom. A few hours later, Martel allegedly removed a bag containing an object “consistent with a kitten” from the pantry, Dale-Schmidt continued. She said he told his girlfriend that the new kitten’s body was in the bag, which he tossed down the trash chute.
Once again, he went on Craigslist and found another kitten that looked like the others, according to Dale-Schmidt. She said the girlfriend told Martel he had to stop, so he kicked her out, only to immediately call her because he needed money to buy the new kitten.
They bought the fourth kitten in Woodstock. Martel named it Shelly.
The next day, after the kitten peed in its food bowl, Martel became irate and told his girlfriend that the cat needed a bath, Dale-Schmidt continued. About 30 minutes later, she said, Martel emerged from the bathroom with the kitten wrapped in a towel, which he tossed down the trash chute.
The next day, June 7, Martel sent his girlfriend a picture of another kitten that looked like the others, and he asked her for money to buy it, Dale-Schmidt said. The couple drove to Burbank and returned with the kitten, which Martel named Shelly.
On June 18, Martel’s girlfriend looked at his phone and found horrifyingly graphic videos and photographs of Martel with the fourth kitten. Dale-Schmidt detailed the images in court, including one that showed the kitten still alive. It was captioned “just before I murdered her.”
The woman sent the photos and videos to herself and contacted Chicago police.
Dale-Schmidt said that, after a few days away, the girlfriend returned to Martel’s apartment on June 23. Reggie, the adult cat, was OK. But the kitten was missing, and the unit had a foul odor. Martel told her that he had killed three cats in the microwave and put them in the pantry, Dale-Schmidt alleged. She said the woman saw a black bag on a pantry shelf emitting a terrible smell.
Martel and his girlfriend went to bed, but the woman called Chicago police during the night and directed officers to the bag in the pantry. The officers cut the bag open and found what appeared to be parts of “multiple” kittens,” according to Dale-Schmidt.
She said Martel was taken in for a week-long mental health evaluation. He turned himself in to police on Monday.
Brandon Brown, a private defense attorney, represented Martel in court on Tuesday. He told Judge McCarthy that Martel was scheduled to begin a new mental health treatment program on Wednesday. Martel, who works as a roofer, has no criminal convictions in his background, he said.
Prosecutors charged Martel with four counts of animal torture and two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.
McCarthy ordered Martel to go on electronic monitoring if he posts bail. And if he gets out, she said, he is barred from obtaining, controlling, or having any contact with any animals.