A $5,200 reward has been posted in the deaths of four kittens who were discovered in the rear yard of a Riverhead business with their throats slashed.
The black-and-gray-striped kittens, not old enough to open their eyes, were spotted Oct. 1 in the parking area of Riverhead Brake Service by a worker, said business co-owner Francis Bujnicki.
"I said a little prayer for them," said Bujnicki, who contributed $200 to the reward. "I felt so bad. All of them were identical. Why would anybody do this?"
The bodies were likely thrown over the back fence facing Hubbard Avenue between 5 p.m. Sept. 30, when the business closed, and 6:30 a.m. the following day, said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"They're small, little smaller than the size of your hand," Gross said.
SPCA investigators have been going door to door and posting fliers in Riverhead.
In asking people about cats who were pregnant recently, investigators have been greeted with both cooperation and outrage over the killings, Gross said.
A former police detective leads the investigation and hopes the reward will "speak" to those with information.
"This is going to be a tough one," said George Whalley, who joined the SPCA a month ago after retiring from the NYPD in August. "It's not like you can go speak to family members and say, 'Hey, Joey got killed. What was going on?' I don't know where the cats came from."
Whalley said he's approaching the case like he would a human homicide, from obtaining surveillance videos to looking for evidence at the crime scene.
"You have a body -- in this case cats instead of people -- and you have no witnesses, or people who are unwilling to speak for whatever reason," he said.
Whalley said he believes the killer has not fled and probably thinks, "It's a couple of cats. Who cares?"
The person responsible for the killings could be charged with aggravated animal cruelty, reserved for "especially depraved and sadistic" acts, Gross said. The charge is punishable by up to 2 years in prison.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Suffolk County SPCA at 631- 382-7722. Calls will remain confidential.