PLEASANTON CAT TORTURE CASE
Dear Pet Lover,
On January 17, 2005, in Pleasanton, California 18-year-old John Van De Roovaart and two 17-year-olds decided to kill a cat. They drove around the neighborhood and found Xeno an 18-year-old family pet. Xeno was older than the children in his family and had always been treated with love and kindness. Xeno had no reason to fear humans and walked right up to the sadistic killers, who scooped him up, put him in their car and took him to Van De Roovaart’s house.
Once there they repeatedly tortured Xeno until he died. These sadistic cowards then took Xeno’s body and hung it, for public display, from an abandoned railroad overpass on Sunol Boulevard.
Passing motorist called Police and two of them offered a $1,000.00 reward. This resulted in tips that led to the killer’s arrest.
Two weeks before Xeno was killed a squirrel was crucified and displayed on the corner of Bernal and Puerto Vallarta, a few doors from Van De Roovaart’s house.
Alex Ferreyra, a psychologist with Alameda County Children’s Services in Oakland discovered the crucified squirrel while driving his daughter home from school.
In an interview with the Valley Herald Newspaper Ferreyra said, “The poor animal was nailed through its little paws and feet, just like Christ as it’s depicted in the Bible. It’s feet were bunched on top of one another and nailed through. It’s arms were spread out like Christ’s”.
VOICES FOR PETS offered a $3,000 reward in the squirrel case and volunteers handed out reward posters at the local High School. This resulted in calls not only about the squirrel but many other cruelty to animal cases in Van De Roovaart’s neighborhood. VOICES FOR PETS then increased the reward to $5,000 and included any cruelty to animal cases in the Bernal and Puerto Vallarta neighborhood. Volunteers left a poster on over 500 doorsteps in Van De Roovaart’s neighborhood. This resulted in more information.
Some callers told of missing pets. Some told of animals hung from a tree or a street sign. Two independent callers said that one of the 17-year-olds that were involved in killing Xeno was at school laughing and bragging about the crucified squirrel.
By June 2005, all defendants had accepted a plea bargain from the Alameda County District Attorney that included no jail time.
On June 15, 2005, John Van De Roovaart plead no contest to one count of Felony Animal Cruelty. He was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to continue counseling ? counseling that he did not sign up for until he got an attorney ? he was ordered to pay restitution to the cat’s family ? the value of a shelter cat ? and perform 500 hours of community service in an Animal Shelter.
The plea bargain outraged the community. Court observer Kathy Witherell said, “Would you let a pedophile work at a day care?”
At the formal sentencing in July, the Defense Attorney had not been able to find an Animal Shelter that would allow Van De Roovaart in to their program and the 500 hours of community service was made generic.
On August 10, 2005, I called Pleasanton Police Officer Michael Steiner. I told him of the information we had received. I suggested that in addition to the new information if the rope used to hang the other animals had been kept it could be matched to the rope used to hang Xeno. This could justify a search of Van De Roovaart’s house to look for a spool of rope and possibly matching the cut ends. Officer Steiner said that the two 17-year-olds had implicated Van De Roovaart in the killing of the squirrel but that had all been dealt with in the plea bargain and there would not be any new charges.
During this time I watched live coverage on Court TV of the sentencing of self-described BTK Serial Killer, Dennis Rader, BTK standing for Bind Torture Kill.
During his sentencing, Dennis Rader told of torturing and killing 10 people. He also told how as an Animal Control Officer he would take dogs and cats to a barn where he would string them up to torture and kill them.
At John Van De Roovaart’s sentencing he showed no remorse. He came to court wearing his standard costume of all black. He spent the two days before sentencing painting his muscle truck with oversize tires in military camouflage paint.
I was back in Van De Roovaart’s neighborhood in November 2005 and saw a young tabby cat sitting inside his garage as if it lived there. I also saw parents dropping off young children - an older sister gives piano lessons.
Deputy DA Thomas Burks summed up the long-standing policy of Alameda County District Attorney Thomas Orloff when he said, “A prison sentence in this case was unrealistic”.