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Provo man accused of burning, beating kittens

Spencer Jens Pedersen, 26, was arrested Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, for investigation of three felony counts of cruelty to animals and torture of a companion animal, including one that was set on fire. But Provo police say he may have killed or tortured as
Spencer Jens Pedersen, 26, was arrested Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, for investigation of three felony counts of cruelty to animals and torture of a companion animal, including one that was set on fire. But Provo police say he may have killed or tortured as many as 11 cats and kittens.
Utah County Jail

PROVO — A man accused of burning at least one cat and killing a second has been arrested by Provo police.

Spencer Jens Pedersen, 26, was booked into the Utah County Jail Wednesday for investigation of three felony counts of cruelty to animals and torture of a companion animal. But Provo police say he may have killed or tortured as many as 11 cats and kittens.

The investigation began about 3 a.m. on Oct. 15 when police found a kitten on fire in the gutter near 1500 North and 300 West.

"The animal was alive but had to be euthanized," Provo police said in a statement.

On Nov. 6, police responded to 1316 N. 380 West on a report of a hurt cat. Blood was coming from its mouth, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court.

"One neighbor reported finding dead kittens in his dog run and seeing Pedersen near there," an officer wrote.

The neighbor reported that "over the past couple weeks, about eight dead cats have been thrown into his dog pen," the affidavit states. "The last cat found had a yellow rope tied around its neck."

Other neighbors reported seeing Pedersen in possession of kittens and being rough with them, according to police. Investigators obtained a search warrant Monday and reported finding a dead cat in Pedersen's trash.

"That cat was taken to a vet and found to have broken back legs, broken jaw and blown ear drums. The vet stated that the injuries were that of blunt force trauma," the affidavit states.

Trace amounts of heroin were also found, police say.

Detectives searching Pedersen's cellphone found a picture of a cat bleeding from the mouth, the report states.

As of Thursday, Provo police had not said what they believe the motive is for the torture killings. Pedersen allegedly got the kittens by responding to online classified ads from people giving away cats.

The Humane Society of Utah issued a statement Thursday about the case.

"We are at a loss for words to express our reaction to these gruesome activities," said spokeswoman Deanne Shepherd. "This anti-social behavior is scary since abuse of animals is highly correlated with human abuse."

The animal welfare organization announced intentions to follow the case. Shepherd encouraged the public to contact the prosecutor and ask that Pedersen not be allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges.

"We hope the punishment fits the crime in this situation since the action by the court will set an example of what is the tolerable and acceptable treatment of pets in our society," she said.

In April, Pedersen was charged with emergency reporting abuse in South Salt Lake Justice Court, but the case was dropped in June.

In 2008, Pedersen was convicted of arson in 2nd District Court, for blowing up mailboxes. His probation was revoked several times for violations, including Lortab abuse, and he was eventually sentenced to one year in jail in 2013, according to court records. In 2010, Pedersen was convicted of drug distribution.

Pedersen recently married. His wife had no knowledge of the animal abuse, according to police.

Contributing: Katie McKellar