PROVO — Animal torture charges were filed against a Provo man Monday in a strange case that police say involves several dead kittens.
Provo police arrested Spencer Jens Pedersen, 26, last week and said he may have tortured or killed up to 11 cats and kittens. New charges filed against Pedersen in 4th District Court include just two counts of torture of a companion animal, a third-degree felony.
It wasn't clear Monday whether prosecutors anticipate filing additional charges.
Pedersen is also charged with possession or use of heroin with intent to distribute, a third-degree felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.
The first incident listed in the charges occurred Oct. 15, when a kitten was found doused in gasoline and set on fire in a gutter in the area of 1500 North and 300 West.
"(Pedersen), who lived approximately (a half) block away, admitted being in the area and to buying gasoline just before the fire at a nearby gas station," charging documents state.
The kitten was later euthanized.
On Nov. 6, one of Pedersen's neighbors "noticed him looking into (the neighbor's) yard" in the area of 1300 North and 380 West, according to court documents. The neighbor then noticed an injured kitten in his own dog run "with blood around its mouth," the charges say.
The same neighbor told police he had discovered eight other dead kittens in his dog run in the previous two weeks.
"One of (the kittens) had a yellow rope tied around its neck," the charges state.
Another witness told police she saw Pedersen with a live kitten one day before it was killed.
On Nov. 15, a search of Pedersen's trash can allegedly revealed another dead kitten, as well as a small amount of heroin and drug paraphernalia.
"The kitten was examined by a veterinarian, who found that it had died from trauma," charges state.
Provo police said in an arrest affidavit last week that the kitten found in the trash can had broken back legs, blown ear drums and a broken jaw.
Police served a search warrant that next day at Pedersen's home and "found a rolled up mat with blood spatter on it and yellow nylon rope," court documents say. They also allegedly found heroin and drug paraphernalia.
Police also reported last week that other neighbors said Pedersen was rough with kittens and that a search of his cellphone yielded a photo of a cat bleeding from its mouth. Those details are not included in the charging documents.
Investigators believe Pedersen came in possession of the kittens by responding to classified ads online.
The Humane Society of Utah said last week it hopes prosecutors will not allow for reduced charges in the case.
"We are at a loss for words to express our reaction to these gruesome activities," Humane Society of Utah spokeswoman Deanne Shepherd said in a statement. "This anti-social behavior is scary since abuse of animals is highly correlated with human abuse."
Pedersen is currently being held in the Utah County Jail. His prior criminal history includes convictions for arson and drug distribution, court records show.