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Authorities: NC man filmed himself torturing, killing small animals

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A 20-year-old Winston-Salem man was indicted Monday on allegations that he videotaped himself torturing and killing small animals. Indictments and search warrants allege that he submerged small animals in water, set them on fire and dismembered them.

A Forsyth County grand jury handed down indictments against Caleb Daniel Dewald of Yeaton Glen Drive on 10 counts of felony animal cruelty. The indictments send the case against Dewald to Forsyth Superior Court, where either a trial date will be set or a plea deal will be negotiated.

The indictments cover a period between 2017 and 2021. Dewald is accused of, among other things, submerging a bird into a container of cold water, and several crimes involving squirrels, including cutting the nose and tail off one, electrocuting another, and spraying another squirrel with oil and setting it on fire.

According to search warrants, the criminal investigation started June 29, 2021, when the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers that Dewald was trapping, torturing and killing small animals and that Dewald was then posting videos on the web. The next day, the sheriff’s office got an email from Kristin Rickman, the Emergency Response Division Manager for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), saying that Dewald had drowned opossums and squirrels, tortured rats and drowned and stoned squirrels. Rickman’s email contained five videos showing Dewald abusing small animals, the warrants said.

In one video, Dewald is seen trapping and drowning a young opossum in a vat of water. He says, “Weirdest cat I ever saw.” Then he says, “Took about two minutes 30...longer than others,” according to search warrants. The camera focuses on the trapped opossum, which can been seen “in a frantic, struggling panic state.”

A second video shows Dewald filming the drowning of a squirrel that was in a metal animal trap that was lowered into a vat of water, the search warrants allege. Dewald is heard to say that he will attempt to skin the squirrel after the drowning and that he had shot a groundhog in the head, describing it as “fun.”

Search warrants describe a third video showing Dewald using a can of WD-40 oil to soak another squirrel, taking a box of matches and then setting the squirrel on fire.

“During the video, the suspect can be heard making the comments, ‘My job here is done,’ 'As you can see, the squirrel is no longer happy,’ and ‘Boys and girls, this is how you get your food cooked,’" Dakota Faircloth, an investigator with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, wrote in an affidavit for the search warrants.

In a fourth video, Dewald holds a burned squirrel, saying that the squirrel is still alive. Dewald wraps the squirrel in duct tape and other materials and places it into a clear plastic bag, the search warrants said.

A fifth video that appeared to be older showed Dewald with a mouse or rat in a glue trap. While someone else films, Dewald takes a black-handled knife and stabs the animal “until its eyes begin to bulge from its skull,” the search warrants allege.

Faircloth says in the search warrants that investigators were able to trace the fifth video to when Dewald was a student at N.C. Leadership Academy in Kernersville, where Dewald graduated in 2020.

“Administration advised they remembered Caleb Dewald and stated there were numerous incidents in which Caleb was brought to their attention due to having photographs of animal cruelty,” Faircloth writes in the search warrants. “The applicant was told there were images of rats, squirrels and cats being tortured and flayed.”

School administrators confirmed that the voice on the fifth video belonged to Dewald and told investigators that when Dewald was once searched for drugs and weapons, they found a journal, the search warrants said. The journal had entries that had “drawings and confessions regarding the killing and torturing of different animals.” Because the journal was considered private property, it was returned to Dewald, the search warrants said.

After sheriff’s deputies executed the first search warrant at Dewald’s house, they received an audio recording from PETA officials “where Caleb Dewald can be heard bragging that Law Enforcement had seized various flash drives but did not ‘take the right flashdrive (mass storage device)’ with all of his ‘stuff on it.’”

“He also confessed to the videos listed above claiming he was guilty of the crimes listed in this application,” Faircloth said in the search warrants. “Caleb was online using a computer to speak with friends when the confessions were made.”

Dewald was released last year on a $20,000 bond.

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