Salem witches relieved after arrests in raccoon mutilation case
Witches of Salem are relieved after a major break in this spring’s raccoon mutilation case, hoping that the arrest of two residents will clear the reputation of the Wiccan and psychic communities.
An eyewitness’ account prompted the arrest Tuesday afternoon of Sharon Graham, 46, and Frederick Purtz, 22, both of 98 Bridge St., on charges of destruction of property, littering and intimidation of a witness. Graham has worked as a psychic in Salem, and reportedly considered herself a witch at one point.
Additional charges against Graham may follow, police said, as she reportedly had animal parts from protected species in her apartment during an early questioning. Police said the items, including a wolf pelt, owl wings and birds’ feet, were seized while authorities determine whether they are legal to possess or belong to protected species.
Richard Watson, of 100 Bridge St., was once a friend of Graham and Purtz and was present during the night of May 9 when the defendants allegedly used mutilated raccoon remains to vandalize two downtown shops, Angelica of the Angels on Central Street and The Goddess’ Treasure Chest on Essex Street.
“My conscience was killing me,” after witnessing the acts, Watson told the Gazette. He said he kept silent because Graham threatened to slit his throat while he slept, but ultimately came forward to police. “Ever since I went to the police I’ve been relieved.”
Still, Watson said he secured a restraining order against Graham on Wednesday.
“I’m glad they found who did it,” said Barbara Szafranski, who owns Angelica of the Angels. “And I have to commend the police department for sticking to it and finding out who did it.”
Watson says he returned home to his apartment on May 27 to find Graham, Purtz and several other people gathered in his kitchen. At the time, Graham was staying with him and living in one of his rooms, he said.
Watson said he saw Graham and Purtz take two trash bags out of his refrigerator. “They said to me, ‘C’mon Rick, we’re going take a ride,’” he said. Watson maintains that he didn’t know what was in the bags, or what the plan was, until the incident occurred.
A male friend of Graham drove the group — including Graham, Purtz and Watson and another male — to the area of the two shops, the witness said, where he and one of the other males were instructed to act as lookouts.
Watson said he watched as Purtz left bloody raccoon remains at The Goddess’ Treasure Chest, while Graham did the same at Angelica of the Angels.
Police confirmed that there were several people in the car and said Graham smeared the raccoon’s head and intestines at Angelica’s, while Purtz left the carcass at The Goddess’ Treasure Chest.
Sources said the raccoon was already dead when the two defendants found it in a wooded area, possibly in the Salem Willows. The defendants allegedly considered other locations before settling on the two shops that were affected.
“There was also talk of where to go. The two targets were not the only ones considered,” said Lt. Conrad Prosniewski. “They chose Angelica’s and the Goddess’ Treasure Chest. One (defendant) went to one (shop), one went to the other. They came back, laughed and went home.”
The intimidation charge stemmed from Graham’s alleged comments to Watson. Police said the defendants effectively littered by leaving the animal remains, and caused malicious damage by covering the two shops’ doors with blood and animal remains that required the fire department to clean up and caused some concern about health risks.
“There is no law to differentiate (littering) animal remains,” said Prosniewski. “It’s much more despicable, but the law doesn’t differentiate.”
The defendants were arraigned Wednesday. Purtz has been released on $500 bail, while Graham remained in custody as of Wednesday evening, held on $1,000 bail. Police obtained warrants Tuesday and searched Graham’s and Purtz’s apartment in Bridge Street, prompting the call to environmental police.
The investigation has been handled by Detective John Doyle, said Prosniewski, and the witness’ admissions “broke [the case] wide open.”