The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Animal Rights Activist Charged With Murder Solicitation, a First

By Mark Potok on February 22, 2012 - 2:14 pm, Posted in Domestic Terrorism, Extremist Crime

A 27-year-old animal rights activist living with her parents in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was arrested by federal officials yesterday and charged with asking a hit man to kill a random person wearing fur who was “at least 12 years old.” It was a first in the animal rights movement, whose most radical activists have repeatedly threatened violence and carried out arson attacks but never directly sought to kill someone.

Meredith Marie Lowell was charged with one count of solicitation to commit murder after she corresponded extensively with an undercover law enforcement official who she allegedly sought to pay $730 to carry out the murder at a local library. She suggested he use a gun with a silencer or a “sharp knife that is at least 4 inches long” that could be used to stab the victim to death or slit his or her throat.

FBI agents first learned of the alleged plot last November, when they were alerted to a Facebook page in the name of Anne Lowery, who turned out to be Lowell, officials said. On the page, they said, Lowell openly asked for “someone who is willing to kill someone who is wearing fur toward the end of October 2011 or early November 2011 or possibly in January 2012 or February 2012 at the latest.” She later suggested specific dates in October 2012, saying she was behind schedule.

An affidavit (pdf) filed in court detailed months of sometimes bizarre exchanges between Lowell and the unidentified informant. Lowell’s writing was rambling, juvenile, frequently ungrammatical and self-involved in the extreme. She expressed frustration that nothing she said could convince her mother to get rid of her furs, her brother to stop wearing wool, another brother to stop using leather, or her father to stop eating meat. She told the supposed hit man that he should leave the scene of the murder immediately, and that she would be there and arrange for herself to be arrested in the killing instead. She emphasized in repeated E-mails to the informant that that would allow her to finally stop living with her parents. She asks if her correspondent knows anything about what it would be like for an animal rights activist in prison.

Lowell didn’t say much to justify her allegedly murderous plans, other than to assert that she was for the animal rights movement and was angry that the Cleveland Aquarium had put fish into “the equivalint [sic] of a bathtub.” She then asked if people would like it if their children were “kept in the human equivalint of a bathtub.”

“I hope for the best outcome for the hit and at least expect for the police to understand why I came to the realization why it is necessary to put a hit on people who wear fur,” she wrote, according to the affidavit. In another E-mail, she compares herself to Rosa Parks, saying, “I am not scared to risk personal legal trouble either since it could very well benefit our movement into ending the fur industry and hopefully get me away from my house.”

In the E-mail detailing the potential victim, Lowell said it could be a person of any race or ethnicity, preferably 14 or over but not younger than 12, of either sex, “at least 4 feet or taller,” and “any weight.” She said it should not be anyone she or her family members knew. “I want the person to be dead in less than 2 minutes (under 2 minutes or 1 minute or less would be better),” she allegedly added.

Over the last 15 years or so, animal rights activists have grown increasingly violent and more willing to risk the death of human beings. In more recent years, activists firebombed what they thought was the home of a UCLA researcher and also bombed a California company linked to a firm that used animals in research. Several arsons of what were thought to be empty buildings came close to killing inhabitants. And the most radical fringe of the movement has spoken more and more aggressively of targeting human beings for death. But as far as is publicly known, there has never yet been a case where an American animal rights activist specifically attempted to have a person murdered.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Also, for what it’s worth, I’m one of the roughly 4.5-5 million recent college graduates to move home to their parents’ home. There are three other young people in my neighborhood within two years of my age of twenty-five. Every single one of them has moved home as well.

    As much as I have derided this woman for her serious character flaws, I cannot deride her for living at home at that age. The economy kinda stinks out there, and some of us decided to follow our dreams at school (last History of Technology major at the University of Florida) rather than the money (Professional Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes Winner college major).

    That being said, this girl needs some SERIOUS help. And FAST.

  • Reynardine

    Erika, victims of serious abuse can sometimes only have positive feelings towards animals, because they regard all human beings as dangerous and hurtful. In the worst cases, even animals are too menacing, and they can only feel kindly towards plants. If, as a child, she was abused by siblings or peers, she likely doesn’t see children as children. In her mind, they are still bigger and more menacing than she is. She likely feels like an abused little animal. Being an “animal rights attourney” is clearly a fantasy- people that nuts have occasionally gotten into law school, but they rarely survive the first semester and never the first year.

  • Reynardine

    She needs to be committed right away. She is a danger to herself and others, yet her reasoning so disjointed and her thoughts so scattered that, although she might be McNaughton sane, I doubt she is competent to stand trial.

    Her parents may have been difficult to deal with, or even psychological abusers. It runs in families.

    Living with your family when you’re twenty-seven is not always a sign of gross abnormality. My father, a multiple stroke patient, was a man of some hundred and eighty pounds who frequently fell on the floor, and there was no way that my mother, a diminutive woman with a serious spinal injury, could have coped. As someone a lot physically stronger than my sister, I was the one who went back home. My father lived two more years. My parents weren’t easy people, but I never put a hit on anyone. This young lady is clearly clinicly psychotic.

  • Erika

    Aron, I disagree – the most striking part is probably in 30 comments not a person has pointed out that while she is against killing or harming any animal she apparents does not realize that humans are also animals which by her own terms would make her a specieist.

    No one has also made fun of the fact that she appeared to claim that she is “animal rights attourney” either which if true simply proves that the bar exam needs to become much more difficult and law schools need to tighten up admission criteria.

  • Lex

    12 years old kids are okay to kill if they wearing fur? Jesus CHrist thats sick, most 12 year olds dont have a understanding what fur is and wear what there parents buy them

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    The most striking point for me is that not a SINGLE person has popped up to defend her. Contrast that with the article on Ms Marino, which as of last count, has 110 comments, almost all of them in her defense.

    How bizarre.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    The most striking point for me is that not a SINGLE person has popped up to defend her. Contrast that with the article on Ms Marino, which as of last count, has 110 comments, almost entirely in her defense.

    How bizarre.

  • EarleyDaysYet

    @Dale Launer: “And then there are wack-a-doodles like this young woman. Crazy with a Cause – bad combination.”

    Kudos on “wack-a-doodle”; totally agree on “Crazy With A Cause” – the most dangerous of all.

  • Phila

    …adding, that of course she needs mental health care, and I hope she gets it rather than jail time. But outside of a few obvious grifters, I’d also say that about most of the other people profiled here.

  • Phila

    It is much more likely that she was influenced by mainstream, nonviolent animal rights beliefs and views.

    How do you figure?

    Again, this is an issue I’ve followed for decades, and I’ve heard a lot more counterproductively violent rhetoric in the past five years than I heard in all the previous ones combined (even though the public, oddly enough, is much more sympathetic to animal rights arguments than it was 20 years ago). That doesn’t mean this rhetoric affected her, of course, but I’m not sure why you’d say it’s “much more likely” that it didn’t.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with Camille Marino, but her mental illness is at least as striking as that of Ms. Lowell. And unfortunately, when “leaders” take that tone online, attention-seeking followers are sometimes tempted to take the ball and run with it (as a brief visit to Free Republic will demonstrate). Perhaps that’ll turn out to explain her Facebook post, for all I know.

    Responding to a different commenter…if mental illness were a disqualification for being covered here, I don’t know how many subjects would be left. Is there such a thing as sane obsessive hatred? If that’s not “psychological illness,” what on earth is? (Cf. Jason Smith).

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Dan,

    That’s what I do. In fact, I run a worldwide mercenary band entirely through the FaceBooks.

    LOL

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “Looks like a near successful attempt by those “above ground” activists that incite violence to influence some sick mind to act on their behalf. ”

    So, if you were motivated to solicit murder, you would do so by posting to your page on Facebook?

    DZ

  • Justin

    Looks like a near successful attempt by those “above ground” activists that incite violence to influence some sick mind to act on their behalf. The former are the ones that should be the focus of condemnation here.

    How is society to protect itself when people are allowed to reach tens of thousands through the internet with messages like “it is morally justifiable to kill ______”. How is it really different than inciting a mob to burn a house down?

  • Marisa

    She obviously has mental problerms. Of course, it’s a hate crime, but her “responsibility” is obviously not air-tight.

  • Paul

    Looking through the affidavit I think that an insanity plea is on the cards here…though I can also see how her words and actions are only a gnats wing from those of better known AR extremists such as Camille Marino, Steve Best and Jerry Vlasak. I guess the difference is that they are that bit smarter and know how to cover themselves…most of the time at least.

    It would be interesting to know what influence the writings of people line Best and Marino influenced Lowell. They wouldn’t be the first extremists to shy away from direct violence themselves but use hateful rhetoric to encourage other more vulnerable, impressionable or inadequate persons to do their dirty work for them.

  • Howard E Davis

    I think most people realized half way through this article that the woman described is suffering a psychological illness.

    I agree with those who find this article completely inappropriate and specious as an example of any kind of “hate” crime.

    The value of this article – and the detailed documentation of the FBI sting – is to illustrate how frail the human condition is, and how the mentally ill among us cry out for help in ways both obvious and less so.

    And as we know from recent history – eg the mass murder in Norway, we overlook those with extreme mental problems at our own peril.

  • Supersonic250

    Eric Sims Jr. said,
    “Why does this come under the hate watch or from the Southern Poverty Law Center? Do not fool yourselves. Demonizing folks like this woman undermines your whole cause. She ain’t racist. She ain’t for killing folks because of the color of their skin. She’s poor and young. Just like the folks who end up on death row. So, stop with the hysteria, get a pair, and publish cases worthy of your effort. Oh, and don’t wear fur.”

    They’re reporting on it, because the SPLC isn’t just about racism. It’s about all kinds of hate. Political, religious, nonsensical or insane, racism… Any type of hatred is what the SPLC fights. In THIS particular case, it’s a combination of anti-human racism (yes, I’ll call it that….) and a healthy dose of utter insanity. Plus, it also staves off those morons who claim, “SPLC ONLY REPORTS ON RIGHT-WING NUTS, THEY MUST BE LIBERALS!”

    I love it when people throw around the word “liberal” as if it’s an insult.

  • swaneagle

    I find this particular article to be very disturbing. This is a very sick person. To somehow connect it with animal rights people who have committed arson is rather a stretch. I have found several articles off and on since post WTO to be rather careless in slapping hate crime labels on some of those included. I feel rather concerned with a sensationalized style emerging from SPLC that is irresponsible. Accuracy is important and your reputation may suffer from of this rather stretched framing of murderous, nutty people who may not at all be involved with groups you are targeting. I am sorry to see this.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “when a movement’s rhetoric starts getting more extreme, it encourages these people to act out their fantasies.”

    But this doesn’t apply in this case. What she is accused of is asking for a murder (on Facebook) to be committed so that she could be blamed, arrested, and sent to prison, and she wanted this as a means to get out of her parent’s house.

    In other words, her actions are so unlikely to have resulted in harm that it cannot be seen as a genuine threat. Nor is it reported that she had any connection with animal rights extremists. It is much more likely that she was influenced by mainstream, nonviolent animal rights beliefs and views.

    This is not a case of radicalization of animals rights advocates. In fact the “cause” she is supposed to have supported is quite irrelevant. No terrorist organization could ever work this way. It’s entirely a psychiatric case.

  • Eric Sims Jr.

    Why does this come under the hate watch or from the Southern Poverty Law Center? Do not fool yourselves. Demonizing folks like this woman undermines your whole cause. She ain’t racist. She ain’t for killing folks because of the color of their skin. She’s poor and young. Just like the folks who end up on death row. So, stop with the hysteria, get a pair, and publish cases worthy of your effort. Oh, and don’t wear fur.

  • scribbij

    Prison meat will be okay though because they use the whole animal?

  • Walterius

    Eco-terrorists organizations are starting to represent a clear and present danger to the public safety of the United States.

  • Dale Launer

    Why do people think bringing attention to their cause in sucha way would make people sympathetic to the cause? In fact the reaction is the opposite.

    I knew a group of wealthy women in Aspen in the early ’90′s. The mayor wanted to ban all sale of furs in the city. And these women had furs – but didn’t like to wear them. They were actually a little anti-fur. But to deny them the choice? To go that far? They started wearing their furs as a form of protest.

    Or take the imans of the Muslim Brotherhood – after attacking and murdering tourists at the pyramids – they realized (in prison) that the Koran says they should bring people to Islam. And they realized these brutal acts, the killing of innocent people, was drawing attention to their cause – but it was pushing people away from Islam. They have since renounced violence. (Osama didn’t get that memo! )

    Or the obnoxious protesters of the ’60′s who would say awful things like “LBJ – how many kids did kill today” – didn’t get a peace candidate elected, in fact it got us the opposite; Richard Nixon.

    And then there are wack-a-doodles like this young woman. Crazy with a Cause – bad combination.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Erika,

    Wait wait wait. You’re telling me that you and Erica are the SAME PERSON? I need to clean of the wall because my mind has been BLOWN.

  • Phila

    Dan,

    This case is not about domestic terrorism or animal rights or anything else. The person in this case is simply deranged, deluded or otherwise seriously mentally ill.

    There’s some truth to this. In cases like these, the first thing people look at is the label, whether it’s “animal rights activist,” “white nationalist” or whatever. While I definitely see one of these ideologies as more inherently violent and hateful than the other, the fact remains that the vast majority of people in these movements do not and would not behave like Ms. Lowell. The bedrock similarities between violent extremists transcend all their ideological differences; they’re damaged people looking for an issue that gives them a license to kill (in “defense” of something or someone, of course.)

    That said, when a movement’s rhetoric starts getting more extreme, it encourages these people to act out their fantasies. And given that this has demonstrably been happening in the animal rights movement — which I generally support, by the way — this case definitely is about domestic terrorism and animal rights.

  • Erika

    Aron, you are ignoring that Ms. Lowell took the precaution of changing two letters in her last name to Lowery to hide her real identity. That is almost as clever as me trying to hide my identity by using the name Erica

  • Erika

    While I’m sure that living with one’s parents as a 27 year old is horrible, it can’t possibly be worse than prison.

    In some weird way, I do have to applaud her for taking a bold stand in favor of gender equity – usually these cases involving losers getting caught in ill fated criminal plans still living at home long after they should have moved out involve men.

    I guess when she is sitting in prison she can at least console herself with thinking “at least I didn’t belong to an antigovernment cell called The Covert Group”

  • Kathy Tobacco

    No Dan Zabetakis, the sum total of her actions wasn’t just posting on fb or the feds wouldn’t have arrested her. She met with FBI agents, made up a plan, and put up consideration for the contract killing of a human being. She is a nut but she is a dangerous hateful nut. Did you read “In Cold Blood”? Sometimes nuts meet other nuts and together they can do horrible things. We are just lucky that she met a FBI agent first. She needs to be locked up forever.

  • Shadow Wolf

    That first comment above had me cracking up. But I must concur with that assertion about Mr. Smith.

  • Mark Potok

    I do agree that she sounds completely unhinged. Read the affidavit, and that impression becomes even stronger. That said, it’s possible she might have gotten someone killed. But she sounds less concerned about that than having to live with her meat-eating parents. It’s a strange world we live in.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    Look, I’m seriously, you guys…

    This case is not about domestic terrorism or animal rights or anything else. The person in this case is simply deranged, deluded or otherwise seriously mentally ill. And she did not pose any significant threat to the community as the sum total of her “murderous plans” was to post on Facebook.

    What she clearly needs is mental healthcare, and if we had any sort of universal-ish healthcare it might not have gotten this far as it is.

    DanZ

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GargamelGold?feature=mhee CriticalDragon1177

    Mark Potok,

    This is disgusting. I’ve had a bad feeling something like this was going to happen for a long time and unfortunately I was right.

  • jalmos

    Not exactly the brightest crayon in the box.

    If you’re paying $730 to take someone out in a populated government building with security cameras, you’re either talking to the world’s most desperate murderer or a cop.

    And reading the excerpts from the file, it looks like that was one of the smarter decisions she made in this process.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Killing a twelve-year-old for wearing fur? Now that’s some serious compassion.

    And for the record, if the water could be kept at a comfortable temperature, and I were able to live my life as best I could, living in the ‘human equivalint’ of a bathtub would be quite nice. I like baths.

    Also, what kind of nincompoop enquires about taking out a hit on Facebook? I mean, this woman makes Jason Smith look like a genius in comparison.