An arrest was made in a Davis County animal torture case thanks in part to online sleuths from around the world.
Eighteen year old Samuel Webster faces several counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and is accused of posting videos that show him torturing and killing guinea pigs.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Webster was connected to a YouTube account that posted 17 videos police said depicted the torture and killing of guinea pigs. Police said they had titles like “Torture is Addicting” and “I Tried to Make a Puppet out of a Guinea Pig.”
2News tracked down Leo Boddicker, one of the internet sleuths who said they helped track Webster down. He lives in McComb, Illinois, and has two guinea pigs of his own, Jude and Floyd.
When Boddicker saw a post on the subreddit for guinea pigs saying someone had a YouTube channel with guinea pig torture videos, he said one thing went through his mind.
“I can’t imagine someone wanting to do this them,” Boddicker said.
Boddicker decided he needed to find out who was behind the videos. To do that, he had to watch some of the content.
“It was some really nasty stuff," he said. "I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
He said two of the channels that posted the guinea pig videos had been taken down, but he found another channel that appeared to be connected. And he shared it with other Redditors.
Then, Boddicker said he was invited to a group chat devoted to trying to investigate.
“I stayed up all night with these other people on Reddit, and there was also a Facebook chat too," he said. "People were trying to find out who he was based on clues in his videos. Like in some of his videos, a box from Petco can be seen.”
As the group kept investigating, Boddicker said someone discovered "another YouTube channel by the name of Samuel Webster.”
From there, they found Instagram and Facebook accounts.
“In the pictures, like it kind of matched what we saw in the videos,” Boddicker said. “Because we saw the bottom of his face, and we saw he had like a birthmark by his lip.”
They found an old address in West Bountiful, and contacted police. From there, Woods Cross officers took the case.
Assistant Chief Adam Osoro said YouTube and Reddit users have contacted the department from all over.
“We’ve had people call in from not only Utah, California, all across the United States and even internationally regarding this case,” Osoro said.
Osoro said some were particularly helpful.
“It’s been very interesting," he said. "Some of the YouTube viewers and Redditors on Reddit who witness some of these horrific videos were able to capture some of the evidence and forward it on to us.”
Osoro said 17 videos were collected that depict animal abuse.
“They’re horrific to say the least,” he said.
According to the probable cause affidavit, a search warrant was executed, and numerous items seen in the videos were found in the home, as were animal remains.
The affidavit said the investigation revealed the guinea pigs were purchased at Petco, in Webster’s rewards account.
2News asked Osoro if there were concerns other animals had been harmed.
“I think in a case like this, there’s always a concern that other animals have been harmed," he said. "There were some animals, other animals inside the home. We looked them over. They looked to be well taken care of and not involved.”
Osoro said at least four guinea pigs and a mouse were purchased in October.
“We filed charges on all five of those animals,” he said.
The charges Webster is facing include class A misdemeanors. Osoro explained why they are felony charges.
“Utah code as it stands right now says that if you abuse or torture an animal that is a non-domesticated cat or dog, that’s a felony," he said. "Anything outside of that for Utah state code is a class A misdemeanor.”
Osoro said that a class A misdemeanor could potentially mean jail time if Webster is found guilty. Osoro said Webster has no criminal history that he is aware of, and no violent history.