Tyler Weinman, Once Accused Cat Killer, Sues Miami-Dade County

Tyler Weinman, the Palmetto Bay man who was once accused of killing several pet cats, is now suing Miami-Dade County for negligence that led to his false arrest. The case was dropped in 2010 after an expert hired by the defense found that several of the carcasses of the cats had bites caused by a large animal.

"This young man was vilified in the media. It became a national and international subject. He became a pariah," Weinman's attorney, Ronald S. Guralnick, tells the Miami Herald. "My client should have never been charged in the first place."

The suit claims Weinman's arrest was based on a negligent investigation and built on circumstantial evidence. The case and Weinman's arrest made headlines across the nation.

Weinman was arrested in the spring of 2009, when the bodies of 19 cats were found in yards across Palmetto Bay and Culter Bay. An animal services investigator, who incidentally was being filmed by Animal Planet cameras for a potential reality show, decided the deaths were the work of a cat killer. An anonymous tip led to Weinman's arrest.

The circumstantial evidence seemed strong. The cats were all found in areas relatively close to the homes of Weinman's mother and father. A tracking device placed on Weinman's car showed he was close to the areas where the cats were found, but the defense team maintained that data was misrepresented in court. The string of mysterious feline deaths also seemed to stop after Weinman's arrest.

But the case began falling apart when no DNA evidence was found. The county dropped the case after the animal bite marks were found.

Also named in the lawsuit: Det. Dominick Columbro, former animal services director Sara Pizano, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the University of Florida, which employs forensic veterinarian Melinda D. Merck. Pizano personally examined the cats' remains and confirmed that their death was at the hands of a person. Merck, despite not inspecting the carcasses, confirmed Pizano's findings.

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Kyle Munzenrieder