The Cat Lady – Season 1 Episode 4
There's always that one house in everyone's neighborhood that, for some unknown reason, creeps everyone out. You may not ever really know why, but in some cases, those who pay attention, may learn a few things about why.
Today's witness statement comes from a woman who lived next door to one of these homes. She apparently didn't feel comfortable going to police according to these notes, and she actually lives very close to me. After reading this, I thought to myself “I really do need to be more aware of my surroundings”. Unlike living on the East Coast, you never really know much about your neighbors here in Southern California.
Witness statement from Marjorie DeLonge, Monday, January 5, 2018:
I'll just start from the beginning. My partner, Giselle, and I had fulfilled our dream of opening our own animal rescue just over a year ago. We always felt like dogs had plenty of support in the area, so we decided to focus on cats. For about 3 years, we saved our money and purchased a vacant lot next to my house. The house on the opposite side of that lot had been empty for years, so we felt comfortable turning that lot into an enclosed area with some smaller structures for indoor shelter. We even had a few cats that would stay in our home. At one point we had over 100 cats living in our half-acre shelter, but that's when I had help.
Giselle started to get sick a lot as soon as we opened our doors, and it wasn't long after that she learned she had breast cancer. Everything progressed so fast. I lost her in May of last year, and I've been tending to the shelter on my own ever since. I've considered hiring some help, but it's not exactly a profit-making venture, owning an animal shelter. I rely a lot on donations and even use my own earnings to help these cats. In a lot of ways, caring for them has been somewhat therapeutic, and it has helped to keep Giselle's memory alive.
Everything was going fine running things on my own until last July, when I noticed some of the cats going missing. Sadly, it took me a while to notice because they were so difficult to count. I didn't have assigned areas for them at all inside the enclosure, and they pretty much just had free reign of the grounds. The only way in or out was through a double-entry gate on the side of the enclosure closest to my house. If you wanted to leave the enclosure, you would need to open the inner gate, and you could close it before entering a second outer gate, which prevented any of the cats from darting out past you. I suspected maybe there was a hole in the enclosure somewhere that either the cats were just leaving through, or there might be coyotes figuring out a way to get inside by digging.
I started to take inventory seriously, and I fenced off sections that I corralled the cats into each night, and took a head count, recording my numbers on a paper roster. I would place 10 cats in each small section, each with its own enclosure, toys, and things to climb on. On July 5, I had 53 cats when I did my head count that evening. The next day when I took a head count, I only had 52 cats. I checked it three times to make sure. I walked the perimeter looking for holes in the enclosure or any sign of scat, but I didn't see so much as a paw print. I did notice when I was walking around the far side of the enclosure that the neighbor's house I thought was vacant, may not have been. I heard what sounded like movement of furniture or rumbling.
Up until that point, I hadn't locked the gate, so I figured I would go purchase a padlock to place on the outer gate. The lock I bought had two keys. One of them was placed on my keychain that my house and car keys were on, and the other, I placed under a small rock on my property line. I thought I would take the time, since I was outside, to walk over to the neighbor's to introduce myself. I was really curious to see who would move into such a fixer-upper without making some renovations first. I tried ringing the doorbell, but it didn't seem to work. Then I tried knocking a few times, but nobody came to the door, so I gave up.
About a week later, on July 13, another cat had gone missing. I have records showing which ones exactly, and I was taking into account the ones that had been adopted and the ones coming in. I walked the perimeter again, and saw no signs of other animals or a breach in the enclosure.
This continued on about very 7-10 days for about 4 months when I started noticing a pattern. Every cat that went missing didn't have anything wrong with them. In fact, they were all healthy, and at healthy weights. Most cats in there had some kind of physical deformity that was present at birth or as a result of neglect or abuse. A lot of them were malnourished. But none of the cats that went missing had any of those issues.
At that point in time, I was going broke, and barely had enough money to pay my electric bill. A friend suggested I purchase a security camera with night vision to keep an eye on the shelter, but I couldn't even afford a cheap one. So I continued to do nightly perimeter walks looking for animal tracks, scat, breaches, or any evidence of a predator or tampering. I also continued to notice sounds coming from the neighbors house, and I'm certain I saw the curtains being pulled shut on the second story in October. I tried knocking again after I saw the curtains move, but still couldn't get anyone to answer.
This went on through December. One healthy cat would go missing every week or so, and then at Christmas, one of my frequent adopters who I'd discussed this with, gifted me a small security camera. It had pretty low resolution, and couldn't see more than 30 feet in the dark, but on Christmas night, I was able to attach an extension cord leading from my front patio into a bush about 10 feet away from the gate around my property line. I used zip ties to fasten it to a branch within the bush and pointed the camera at the gate, making every effort to conceal it.
There was an app for my phone that I downloaded, and it had a motion detector setting that I could turn on and set a timer for. The app allowed me to connect the camera to my WiFi network since it was still in range so close to the house. It would only record when it detected motion, and would continue recording until the motion stopped. I even received a text alert with video clips when it recorded something, and I figured I would only set it for the hours of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. That way, the cats would be in their individual enclosures away from the gate, and it wouldn't set off the motion detector all the time.
A few nights went by without any video clips recorded. I was wondering if the thing even worked. It looked like a pretty cheap model. So I decided to test it out by doing my perimeter walk after 7 p.m. one night. Sure enough, I walked toward the gate entrance, and before I even reached it, I got a text notification with a video attached showing me walking toward the gate. It only appeared to have a 10 or 12 second delay too. I thought that was pretty cool.
Then this last Saturday, on January 3, at about 11:30 p.m. I got my first text notification. When I looked at my phone, I saw an elderly woman approaching the gate on the video. I watched as she grabbed the lock on the gate and jiggled it, then I decided I was going to run outside to confront her. I immediately got out of bed, grabbed my robe and slippers as quick as I could, and ran out my front door. I rounded the corner of my house and to my surprise, there was nobody by the gate. At that moment, I heard what sounded like bare feet slapping the pavement, and then a door opened and slammed shut. The noise had come from my neighbor's house.
I walked over there furious and pounded on her door, but I still couldn't get a response. I yelled, “I know you're in there” and knocked for a good 5 minutes until my knuckles started to get tender. Finally, I gave up and decided I'd try to go back to bed. At least the lock had kept her out. I reviewed my video before going to bed just to see if I could get a better idea of what she looked like. As I said, the resolution was fairly poor, but she was in some kind of a night gown or robe that buttoned in the front and went down to her knees. She had bare feet, and I thought she may have been bald at first, but she really just had extremely thin stringy hair. The only other thing that stood out were these scars on the portion of her neck that I could see. I wasn't able to make out much detail, but it looked as though she had some fresh linear wounds there.
I counted my cats again yesterday morning, and I hadn't lost a cat that night. Because of this, I was fairly certain that she had been solely responsible for all of the ones that went missing. I tried going to her house one last time to knock, but I didn't hear any movement or noises inside from her porch. I thought about calling the police, but the video footage only showed her touching the lock. I really wanted to catch her in the act so I could press charges, but I wasn't sure I had enough to go on. So I waited.
I wasn't sure if she would attempt stealing another cat in a week, or if she would even attempt it at all since she knew she was caught. To my surprise, last night I got another text alert, and sure enough, she was at the gate again. This time when I watched the initial video clip, she had found the key that I hid under the rock, and I saw her unlock and open the outer gate before I decided to run out and confront her. When I rounded the corner of the house, I didn't see her, so I waited and listened to see if I could hear her feet running away or her door slamming closed again. I didn't hear anything for a few moments.
When I looked at the gate, it was still open. Both gates were open. And then I heard some labored breathing, along with some grunting. I went to my phone to find my flashlight app, and decided I would go into the enclosure to try to find the source of the noises. Moving as quietly as I could, I passed the inner gate, and then went further into the middle of the enclosure by one of the smaller sections I had built. The noise was coming from the other side of it.
When I got just beyond the corner, the old woman was there. She was down on her knees in the dirt next to the doorway of the enclosure. As I moved my flashlight toward her, the scene was like something out of a horror movie. I noticed her legs first. They were bare below her nightgown and dirty, as if she had been crawling on her knees outside for a while. Her arms were extended down by her sides with her palms facing forward. And protruding from her mouth was the rear half of one of my healthy black and white cats.
I stood there, frozen and in shock, taking in more details and trying to process what I was witnessing. Her head tilted back, looking straight up at the night sky. Her eyes were rolled up into the back of her head so I could see nothing but white. She seemed unaware of my presence. It looked as though her jaw had unhinged and her mouth opened wide enough to swallow the entire cat. There was black and white hair scraping off of the cat and sticking to her brown-stained teeth. I could see an outline of the cat's front legs within her neck, swiping back and forth With each passing second, the cat moved less and less until it didn't move any more. Then, the muscles in the old woman's neck began a pulsating swallowing motion, pulling the cat deeper into her throat by the millimeter with each contraction. The cat's hind legs, which were white at the feet, were stained crimson with blood and the woman had open wounds near her collar bones and on the sides of her neck. The cat's claws had torn open her flesh as it had attempted to avoid being prey, and blood was oozing out down her chest and all over her nightgown.
I watched in horror until all but the hind legs and tail were dangling from her mouth. Her neck bulged, and she closed her mouth a little tighter slowly placing her jaw back in place as the last of the cat's body passed her mouth. Then her eyes slowly rolled forward. As soon as they did, she was aware of my presence, and quickly turned her head to look at me and let out a ghastly hissing sound.
I turned right around and started running as fast as I could toward the double-entry gate, thinking if I could just lock her in there, I could call the police and they might believe me. But before I reached the gate, she blew past me like an athlete, nearly knocking me over, and reached the gate first. She was so fast! All I could do was watch her exit the gate and turn to run down the sidewalk to her house, her bare feet slapping the concrete. When she reached her front door, she stopped for a moment and looked at me. Her brow furrowed and she had piercing eyes that looked angry, yet she still had the cat's feet and some of its tail hanging out of her mouth. Then she quickly opened the door and slammed it shut after going inside.
I checked my video footage, hoping to get a shot of her running through the gate with the cat parts hanging out of her mouth. While the video clearly shows someone leaving the enclosure before I did, it unfortunately came out too blurry to make out any details because of how fast she was moving. I went to stay at my mother's house last night, and I'm not sure I will ever be able to go back there without someone with me. In fact, I don't know if I will ever return. I can't live there knowing that woman is next door, and I don't think I'm not going to be able to sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I can see her, consuming that poor cat.
I accompanied Ms. DeLonge to her home after hearing her story. Once there, I phoned the local sheriff's department and gave them her neighbor's address with an anonymous report that I heard gunfire inside the home. We watched from her living room window until three squad cars showed up, guns drawn, and attempted to communicate to someone inside. Eventually, they kicked the door in. After a few minutes, they left the house, and we walked over to the deputies who were speaking to one another in the front yard.
I asked them what was going on, playing the part of a concerned neighbor. He said they had received a prank call, and there was nothing to worry about. Then I asked what they found inside the house. He told me that the house appeared abandoned. There was some old furniture, rotting, still in there, but it didn't look like anyone had lived there for a long time.
Ms. DeLonge broke down in tears, then turned around to walk toward her own home again, shaking her head. She was inconsolable. She left her home and the shelter that afternoon, and to my knowledge, she has never returned. I did receive a call from her on Wednesday, January 7, just a couple of days after all of this happened She informed me that she called a nonprofit in the area to pick up the cats after she had gone. The roster she provided them had 48 cats when she had done her walk-through just three nights prior. The non-profit reported there were only 32 accounted for with no signs of any holes in the fence or evidence of a predator getting inside.
Thank you for listening to The Storage Papers. Please consider reaching out to me if you have any pertinent information regarding this case either by social media or email. You can direct-message me on Twitter and Instagram @StoragePapers. Make sure to reference Episode 4, The Cat Lady. You just never know whether or not your testimony could be the vital piece of missing information needed to break a case.
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