Animal Instinct: How Cat-Loving Sleuths Found an Accused Killer Sadist

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But while Magnotta made efforts to conceal his identity, he was also hungry for more notoriety. He posted photos of himself in connection with the video holding the cats on the bed but no one recognized him. (This was before the Catfish secret weapon Google Search by Image; TinEye, the image search tool of the time, was crude at best.) After three weeks of lurking in the Facebook group devoted to his own capture, watching users toss out new theories, dissecting every clue in his video, Magnotta wanted more.

On January 11th, 2011, the Barbi Twins worked with extreme animal rights group Negotiation Is Over to publish an article on their site declaring Luka Magnotta as the kitten killer (though claiming he was known by the alias Jamsey Cramsalot Inhisass).

"After an intense investigation another anonymous tip resulted in the positive identification of the well known bisexual porn star and model Luka Magnotta," read the article. "Commonly known for drugs, wild parties, and gay clubs, his name is well known in Canada and the Northern United States regarding stories about him being involved with Karla Homolka, a hated 'serial' killer. Luka, 25, lives in Montpellier France and travels frequently between his home in France and TolYatti Russia."

While much of the above information was wrong, Magnotta's name was now out in the open. Magnotta felt the footsteps enough to meet with a attorney.

On January 12th, he wrote to a Manhattan lawyer named Romeo Salta, less denying his involvement in the video than claiming, truthfully, he was not Jamsey.

The citizen detectives had a name and they had a face. What they were missing was a location. No one knew where Magnotta actually was. And because of that — and the fact that he was just a guy killing kittens, says Green and Moovan — no law enforcement agency was going to give time or effort to finding him.

Rescue Ink's Panzarella came up with an idea. If they couldn't find Luka, maybe they could get Luka to come to them.

"He wants to be a porn star," says Panzarella, explaining his plan. "I call the Barbi twins. They said, 'I can get Ron Jeremy.'"

The Barbi Twins and Panzarella hatched a plan to try and lure Magnotta out of hiding by offering him a role in a porn movie with adult film legend Jeremy. The plot called for Magnotta to show up in Los Angeles to perform in a film. Once on set, Rescue Ink members would grab him, make a citizen's arrest and hand him over to the authorities.

At first Jeremy was on board, so long as he didn't have to do anything gay. "Ron was such a riot," says Barbi. "He was like, 'I only do straight porn.' We told him, there isn't going to be any porn."

"We were playing along with him wanting to be a porn star," says Jeremy. "It would be on the set. We were clowning around. Maybe we would do a policeman movie, where a cop comes in, 'put your hands behind your back!' but it would be a real cop and the real deal."

But Panzarella was upfront with Jeremy about the risks — Magnotta could show up early, and Jeremy would be alone with the kitten killer. The more Jeremy thought about it, the more the deception became too real. The plan fell apart.

"He kind of chickened out," says Sia about Jeremy. 

By mid-January of that year, Moovan was working 16 hours a day on the case, and was getting concerned by what she perceived as immaturity in some of the users in the group — many of whom were just teenagers. John Green was kicked out of the main Facebook group several times. He says it was for asking too many questions, Boyle says it was because of his aggressive nature. Either way, Green and Moovan broke away and started a new closed Facebook group and stopped posting in the public group. "We knew Luka was in there," says Moovan. They focused on analyzing the numerous images they found of Magnotta online. From London to Russia to Miami to Hollywood — it looked like he got around. But one particular photo sparked their interest, and they were able to narrow down where it was taken — precisely. 

luka magnotta
The apartment building where Luka Magnotta lived in Canada.

Among the hundreds of pictures that Magnotta sprinkled across the Internet — many of which turned out to be Photoshopped — there was one of him standing on a balcony of a high rise. Behind him, you could see a Petro-Canada gas station.

There are more than 1,500 Petro-Canada stations across Canada. But armed with Exif data that Moovan pulled, she and Green focused on Toronto. From there, they dug deeper, and came upon one of the pseudo news articles in which Magnotta talked about the "paparazzi" trying to photograph him outside his condo in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. 

Etobicoke is small, so Green did a search and found only nine Petro-Canada gas stations in the area.

"I started to look at Google maps and the street view," says Green. "About the fourth one, I went, 'Boom!' There's the building with the balcony. So we had a name, an exact address and proof he was in Toronto at the time."

This was enough concrete information to be taken seriously by the authorities. In January 2011, Moovan and Green contacted the Ontario branch of the Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and delivered a large document containing evidence from the video, comparisons of known photos of Magnotta with stills from the video, and reasons they believed he was in Toronto. SPCA Investigations and Communications Officer Brad Dewar  was receptive and began working with the Toronto Police. 

"They were very quick to jump on board and help us with this case," says Dewar of the authorities.

A file was started on Magnotta, and the police visited the building and likely talked with the landlord. The information was correct. The photo was taken there. Magnotta had lived there, but he had moved out two years prior. He left no forwarding address. The trail went cold.

The posts on the Vaccumer Kitten Killer Facebook group began to wane. People moved on to other events: a four-month old puppy mutilated in Texas, a man accused of killing 55 dogs in Montana, a dog attacked with a machete in Florida. Occasionally, a member would ask about the kitten killer: "Was this bastard ever found?"

Eventually, Boyle handed reins of the Vaccumer Kitten Killer Facebook group to Moovan, Green and Nicee Punk, who used it as an outpost for their newly formed Animal Beta Project. Still hopeful, they set Google news alerts for "Luka Magnotta" and they waited.

Luka Magnotta
Luka Magnotta is seen typing on a computer.
Rex Features via AP Images

On December 2nd, 2011, a video titled Python Christmas appeared on the site Flix, posted from an account registered in Islington, England. The video showed a live kitten being fed to a python. 

Another video was posted, showing a kitten, duct-taped to the end of a stick and being drowned in a bathtub.

Green, Moovan and the rest of the detectives began to research these new videos. They found that Facebook pages discussing the videos had been set up a month earlier, and pictures of the cats were posted in November as well.

"A month before the videos appeared," says Green, "he was talking about it. That's Luka's M.O. He tries to create buzz."

Trying to determine where Magnotta was now, they spotted a photo of him in front of Buckingham Palace. Magnotta had Photoshopped himself into photos of landmarks before. But it turns out that this time he actually was in Britain in December. They contacted the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals.

On December 8th, Sun U.K. reporter Alex West tweeted to Luka, "If you want to talk, follow me and I'll DM you." Magnotta went to the Sun newsroom to deny allegations that he killed the kittens. The reporter, Alex West, then found him at the pub he was staying above, and conducted a 20-minute interview, which was not posted on the site. "He was without doubt one of the most disturbed and disturbing individuals I have ever encountered," said West in a June 2012 story.

Then, on December 12th, an e-mail from someone calling himself John Kilbride (the name of one of the infamous Moors victims) was sent to the Sun. It ended with "So, I have to disappear for a while, until people quit bothering me.  But next time you hear from me it will be in a movie I am producing that will have some humans in it, not just pussies. I will, however, send you a copy of the new video im going to be making. Once you kill and taste blood it's impossible to stop."

West says he contacted Scotland Yard, but Magnotta was gone again. Green tweeted to the RSPCA, providing them a link to the lengthy dossier on Magnotta they had created, and also reached out to West, "with no luck," says Moovan.

Green and Moovan began feverishly analyzing the new activity, but Luka had again disappeared inside the Internet. But in January of 2012 they spotted something odd: a comment made from what they believed to be one of Magnotta's sock puppet Facebook accounts, on a Facebook page of an obscure Montreal House DJ named Threestarr. It was something someone without a connection to Montreal would never have posted.

They filed it in the back of their minds and kept searching, combing through the Magnotta ephemera that was popping up. "He makes up these dedication videos to himself, where he puts all his pictures together and plays a Madonna song or something," says Moovan. "And you have to sit through all these frickin' videos. It's the same pictures over and over again. So I'm watching one day, and I said, 'Oh my God, that's a new picture.'"

In the middle of the video was a photo of Magnotta standing on a set of unique stone steps. It was not something that could be found in just any city. 

"We started working on that picture," says Moovan. "We took note of the trees. The foliage. The streetlights. The crosswalks. We went street by street, city by city."

They discovered that the same streetlights and crosswalks from the photo were located in Montreal. They also discovered that Magnotta, ironically, had also filed a DMCA takedown notice — against unbelievablenews20.blogspot, for a photo he said he owned the copyright of which accompanied the August 2008 story "Luka Magnotta : Incest With His Sister" — in which he used a Montreal area code for his contact info.

The group quickly contacted a Toronto detective, who explained that the case was now out of his jurisdiction, and they would need to file a complaint with the Montreal SPCA.

Luckily, Green knew of a woman who helped rescue sled dogs and who lived in the Montreal area — Dee-Ann, a 60-year old former import export manager who was living on disability. Dee-Ann (her online pseudonym) took the assignment, and called the Montreal SPCA to set up a meeting. Armed with a copy of her file containing all of the evidence pointing to Magnotta and the evidence that he was in Montreal, she met with Gabriel Boudreault, Inspector at the SPCA.

After months and months of searching, they thought they might get some help. 

"All they said was, 'It's just cats,'" says Dee-Ann. "There's nothing we can do about it. We don't have time for this." She kept pressing them, but they told her to go to the police.

"There was not much," says Boudreault. "Montreal is a big city. We didn't know exactly where he was. We didn't find a lot, because it was on the Internet. We didn't know when it happened; where it happened."  

Boudreault says he went to a prosecutor to get an arrest warrant, but didn't succeed. "At that time, [Magnotta] wasn't a murderer." 

Dee-Ann left and went to the Montreal police department — but found the same result. "Again I'm told, 'It's just cats.' I am showing them that it's been proven that people that abuse animals can turn into serial killers. And they brushed me aside."

"What else could I have done?" says Dee-Ann. "In the end, I told them this guy is going to turn around and kill somebody. And they poo-pooed me."

"We were really concerned," says Green. "We were saying, 'He's going to hurt somebody.'"

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