Animal head left on doorstep
'Gift' addressed to vegan teen; police say it's just a prank
Thursday, December 29, 2005
By Daniel Duggan
Three days before Christmas, a Palos Heights woman got quite a shock when she opened a package that arrived for her at home.
She quickly realized it wasn't a gift from Santa Claus, as the tag said.
"I picked it up, it was red and squishy," said Kelly, 18, who asked that her last name not be used. "Then I saw an eyeball looking at me, and I freaked out."
The box contained an animal's bloody head.
Palos Heights police believe it was a prank but are continuing their investigation.
Kelly, a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is a vegan and does not eat any animal products. Her best friend and boyfriend also are vegans, and many of their friends are vegetarians.
"I've been asking all my friends, and I don't know anybody who would do something like this," she said. "My friends would all know that I take being a vegan seriously and wouldn't find it funny."
The box showed up in front of her house in the 12300 block of 76th Avenue on Dec. 22, sometime between when her mom locked the front door at 11 a.m. and when her sister came home at noon, Kelly said.
Her mother put the neatly wrapped box on the kitchen table and told her a gift had arrived. The box had a tag that read "Merry Christmas Kelly" and was signed "love, Santa Claus."
The box sat on the table for about an hour before Kelly opened it. She unwrapped the box and saw only newspaper.
Then she found the head.
"At first I thought it wasn't real, mostly because it didn't smell," she said.
She got a friend who lives nearby, and the two inspected the head closely while wearing rubber gloves. Then they called the police.
Kelly guessed that the head didn't smell because it had been frozen, "and there were plastic bags at the bottom of the box so the blood wouldn't drip out," she said.
All of the skin had been removed, but the head appeared to be from a goat or a lamb, Palos Heights Detective Adam Nagy said.
"There's no skin on it, so we can't really tell," he said.
It appears to be a prank, but police are running tests on the animal and the box to try to find fingerprints and other chemical evidence, Nagy said. At a minimum, he said, a person could be charged with disorderly conduct.
Finding a lamb's head is fairly easy — just ask at any butcher shop or meat packing house, said Harry Angelson, food safety manager at Chiappetti Lamb and Veal Corp., 3810 S. Halsted St.
"We sell a couple a day," he said. "Most butcher shops could order one for you."
He said people in some ethnic groups, such as Mexicans, use meat from lamb tongue and cheeks in traditional dishes. A good lamb's head will cost between $3.50 and $6, depending on where it's purchased, he said.
She said a fake head, maybe even a hamburger, might have been funny — but not this. And she doesn't have any enemies so serious they would go to such trouble.
"It's just horrible," she said. "I never thought that someone would do something like this in real life. It's like something you'd see in a movie."
So much for goat cheese, huh?