2017-04-06 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Imagine if your pet squealed on you? Well, there have been criminal cases where the idea of calling pets such as parrots, cats and dogs to “testify” has been debated by defense and prosecutors. So watch what you say and do in front of your pets. Parrots as witnesses:

# 1 BUD- African grey turns stool pigeon- When the dead body of 45-year-old Martin Duram was first discovered in Michigan in 2015, his wife, Glenna Duram (who also had gun wounds but survived), was considered the first and only witness. Later, authorities began to suspect Glenna was responsible for her husband’s death and her own injuries after she relayed several different accounts, at times claiming she remembered nothing, while other times denying she was the murderer.

At this point the couple’s African grey parrot, Bud, was brought into the judicial process. Like most parrots, Bud is known for his loud-mouthed mimicking of the humans around him. According to a video the police found, the bird consistently repeated the words “Please don’t (profanity) shoot!” The video of Bud yelling could serve as potential proof Glenna did shoot her husband Martin, with a plan to kill herself afterwards. Even Martin’s mother believed in the bird as a witness, saying: “That bird picks up anything and everything, and it’s got the filthiest mouth around.”


The victim's parents feel "Bud," the African grey, witnessed the murder of their son. The victim's parents feel "Bud," the African grey, witnessed the murder of their son. However, the prosecutor ruled out asking the bird to take the stand. Mrs. Duram was accused of shooting her husband five times before trying to kill herself. She survived a bullet wound to the head. Her husband’s relatives believe they argued over money and her gambling debts.

Mr. Duram’s former wife got custody of Bud, and said the parrot used two different voices to depict the couple quarreling. “I believe with all my heart that those are the last words of Marty,” she said. “I recognize two different voices screaming and yelling and it always ends with, ‘Don’t (***) shoot!"

#2 ECHO- Parrot in witness protection- In the mid- 1990s, a parrot named Echo was one of the first animals to enter the witness protection program. Because witness protection doesn’t include shelter for animals, Echo was sent to a wildlife rehab and given explicit instructions to keep hush.

Owned by the former New Orleans crime boss, Echo witnessed child abuse (the jury was out on whether Echo witnessed a murder) and reached a point where she would rock and repeat vile things her mob owner said. After Corolla was brought to trial and Echo served as a witness, authorities sent her into hiding.

#3 MAX- African grey went into witness protection under a new identity-In 1993 a San Francisco defense lawyer thought Max was the key witness to the person who smothered his owner two years previously. Max was found hungry and dehydrated in his cage two days after his owner Jane Gill was killed. He was coaxed back to health at a pet shop. Shortly after the store owner said the bird began crying out: “Richard, no, no, no!”

This interested the defense attorney because the suspect charged was the victim’s business partner named Gary, not Richard. The district attorney would not allow introduction of Max’s plaintive plea as evidence, even though the bird didn’t have to appear on the witness stand. After that, the defense joked Max was in witness protection disguised as a macaw. By the way, Gary the partner was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Cat DNA gets a conviction:

#1 SNOWBALL’s white fur convicts a killer- In 1994, Shirley Duguay, a 32-year-old mother of five who lived on Prince Edward Island, disappeared. Four days later, her car turned up a few miles from her home. Samples of blood in the car’s interior were sent to the forensics labs of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Tests showed that the blood came from the missing woman.

Her body was later found near a man’s leather jacket that was also splattered with blood and had stray hairs from a white cat in the lining. One investigator remembered seeing a white cat in the home of the prime suspect while interviewing him. The team took a DNA sample from this cat (Snowball) and even took samples of Snowball’s blood to compare to other cats to make sure the DNA was consistent. Snowball’s DNA was the clinching evidence and helped bring justice when Duguay’s ex-husband Douglas Beamish was found guilty. French dogs as weak witnesses:

#1 Scooby Doo in Paris- In 2008 when his 59-year-old owner was found dead by hanging in her Paris flat, Scooby was supposedly with her. The scene looked like a suicide, but the family demanded a murder investigation.

During a preliminary hearing Scooby was led into the witness box by a vet to see how he reacted to a suspect. He is said to have “barked furiously.” The aim was to decide if there was sufficient evidence to launch a full murder inquiry but a judge decided Scooby’s testimony was inconclusive. However, the judge did praise Scooby for his “exemplary behavior and invaluable assistance.”

#2 Tango the Labrador- In 2014 Tango (age nine) was believed to have witnessed his master being killed during a fight in the French city of Tours. To identify the alleged murderer, Tango was called to the stand, where the suspect threatened him with a bat. The idea was that Tango would start barking, or show some other sign that he recognized the killer.

In a preliminary hearing, a second dog of the same breed and age called Norman was also summoned to undergo the same test. The suspect’s lawyer protested: “So if Tango lifted his right paw, moved his mouth or his tail, is he recognizing my client or not?” The entire episode turned out to be a failure, with neither Tango nor Norman showing any interest in the man with the bat, or in the rest of the court proceedings.

For Adoption at Last Hope, 3300 Beltagh Ave., Wantagh: Speaking of French dogs, “Moose,” a Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff), comes to Last Hope from Brookhaven Town Shelter. He’s a big mushy boy about four who deserves a breed-experienced owner. “Zoey,” a Beagle mix, will be having surgery to repair her cherry eyes mid month. She is a sweetie who comes from a horrific setting.

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