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Washington Voices

Dead Calf Display Removed By Man, But He Keeps Head `Bird Feeder’ Alarms Onlookers, Cited As Health Hazard

Thu., Feb. 16, 1995

A group of Valley horseback riders was shocked last week by a bizarre “bird feeder” - a skinned calf carcass atop a 20-foot-high platform - which they mistook for a satanic sacrifice.

“It looked like a miniature pavilion … and at the top was this dead calf,” said Lea Armstrong, who often rides near E11219 Empire Way, where the dead calf was spotted.

“The tail and ears were cut off, and it was skinned from shoulders to legs, and you could see right through it,” she said. “It was gross.”

“It looked satanic,” said Jacquelyn Abbot, who was riding with Armstrong at the time.

After the Sheriff’s Department and county animal control authorities received a complaint about the carcass, animal control officer Sheri Kent went to the home on East Empire Way and asked resident David Gross to let her remove the calf. He agreed, on the condition he got to keep the head.

Kent’s report described the structure as a “sculpture,” with the dead calf perched atop it as a “cannibalistic bird feeder.” Her report stated Gross said he mounted the calf skyward to feed crows.

According to Marianne Sinclair, director of Spokane County Animal Control, the county had no authority to force Gross to remove the calf carcass for 24 hours. After that, officials could remove it, citing it a health hazard.

Gross could not be contacted for comment, but Sinclair said Gross told officers he wanted to keep the head mounted on a pike so birds could pick it clean. Animal control authorities told him that, too, would be a health code violation if the head was left up longer than 24 hours.

The fact that Gross could be allowed to display the dead calf for even 24 hours alarmed some people.

“You can display any kind of dead animal you want for 24 hours,” Abbot said. “I don’t think people realize that. I’m going to try and get the law changed.

“I would have taken it down myself if (Gross) didn’t.”

Neighbors said they first spotted the dead calf about three weeks ago. It was lying on a gravel trail about a half mile east of the Inland Empire Paper Company.

They reported the carcass to animal control authorities. When it vanished two days later, the neighbors assumed it had been disposed of by officials.

Apparently, it wasn’t. Officer Kent’s report stated Gross admitted finding the calf, keeping it for three weeks and then skinning all but the head and legs before mounting it on the platform in his back yard.

Sheryl Smith said she and other neighbors never noticed the tall platform in Gross’s back yard prior to spotting the calf carcass atop it.

“But without something (like a dead calf) on it, I might not have noticed it,” Smith said.

Abbott is glad she doesn’t have to view the calf carcass any more during her rides. However, the tall metal structure remains in Gross’s back yard.

“The tower still stands,” Abbott said. “Who knows what will be up there next?”


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