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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.