Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Arcata Police have submitted a case to the Humboldt County District Attorney, recommending a felony grand theft charge against the man believed to have killed and butchered Princess the Pig on March 23.
The Union has learned that the suspect is Jeffrey Cody Miller, 32, a Humboldt-area resident who police say has no permanent address.
The case was submitted lacking a statement from Miller, whose whereabouts are unknown. As they await issuance of an arrest warrant, APD and Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office deputies are checking multiple Humboldt haunts Miller is known to frequent.
It’s not clear how long it will take for the DA’s Office to turn the case around. An additional charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm could be added.
Arcata Police have seized a rifle they believe was used to kill the one-year-old Hampshire cross pig, and the family has been able to recover and lay to rest only some of her remains.
The shocking killing of the docile, friendly pig touched hearts and sparked outrage around the world thanks to widespread media coverage.
Unfortunately, some of the anger has been misdirected toward the innocent family with whom Princess last visited, and who tried to do the right thing by alerting the police and community of the wandering pig’s location.
Their home shows up on Google Maps Street View as the place where the lost family pet was killed and butchered. But it’s the wrong house – the actual site is the garage of an adjacent home not readily visible from the street.
The family reports hostile individuals driving past their home, accusing and threatening them, while the real culprit’s location is unknown.
The short, sweet life of Princess
In her all-too-brief life, Princess was loved – by her family, friends, neighbors and even passersby. The portly pig loved them back, too.
When one of the Hogan daughters decided she wanted to raise pigs, the family acquired, raised and artificially inseminated Princess’s mother. After giving birth, mama pig was sold to the farm in Fortuna used by the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (SWAP).
That left the family with two piglets. While her brother was raised as an FFA pig, Princess was to be the Hogans’ animal companion. Fragile at first, she was nurtured with intensive care by the family, who bottle-fed her in shifts during a harrowing infancy.
“She was so small; she would never have made it overnight down in the barn,” said Carrie Hogan. “We brought her home, and I didn’t expect her to live through the night.”
At one point, the tiny piglet stopped breathing. But with heat lamps, a cozy straw bed and limitless TLC, she pulled through.
“We worked really hard to keep her healthy,” Carrie said. “She was just a fighter.”
After two months, in March of 2018, Princess was sturdy enough to move to her forever home, so the Hogans brought her to Carrie's parents’ place on the wooded hillside neighborhood of Park Avenue, up Fickle Hill Road.
She enjoyed visits with her lifelong friend, Camden, the Hogans’ yellow Lab. “They were really close,” Carrie said. “I think she thought she was a dog. She would come when called.”
And like a dog, she was loyal and loving to the family, especially Carrie’s husband, Jim. “Whenever she saw him, she made this sound,” Carrie said. “It was like a love squeak.”
Jim joyfully handled the task of feeding Princess most mornings. Carrie would ask if she should feed her, but Jim would always seize the opportunity to spend time with his precious porcine pal. “No” Jim would say. “I need to start my morning off seeing our girl.”
But Carrie and Princess had their own quality-time rtituals as well. Once a week, Carrie would stop at the Eureka Cash & Carry on the way home from work to pick up bits of produce. She’d take them to Princess, feed her, brush her and as people do with their animal companions, talk to her. And Princess, in her way, would talk back.
“She was kind of like, my ‘kid.’ A great, sweet pig,” Carrie said.
On short walks around the neighborhood, neighbors and passersby always smiled and waved as princess rooted around, grazing on grass.
“Everyone knew her,” Carrie said. “She loved people. She was always curious.”
A horrifying end
On Monday, April 8, the bereaved Hogan family called a neighborhood meeting in the garage of their Park Avenue home. It drew not just concerned neighbors, but Arcata’s city manager, police chief, two detectives and the responding police officer.
As rain dripped down in the darkening gloom outside the open garage door, the meeting served as a clearinghouse for information. The various stakeholders stood in a circle and reviewed the sequence of events, explained their concerns and shared updates on the evolving case.
On that fateful Saturday, Carrie explained, Princess’s curiosity and friendliness got the better of her. “She decided to go on a little adventure,” she said.
The peripatetic pig emerged from the woods in front of a family home. When the mother of the house opened the drapes around 8 a.m., across the street stood all 400 pounds of Princess.
“She locked eyes with me and came trotting over to my window really quickly,” the mom said. Though not an “animal person,” she said it was fun to have the friendly pig hang around.
“I was a little intimidated, but the kids and I kind of enjoyed having a pig hanging out on the property for a couple of hours.” Princess spent that pleasant morning in their company, hanging out in the yard and being petted and fed apples and grapes by the children, ages 2 and 5.
It was to be her last morning on Earth.
The mom took pictures and video, and looked up how to handle a stray animal. The guidance was to notify authorities, which she did with a posting on the Humboldt Paws cause Facebook page and a call to APD. The 8:55 a.m. Facebook posting is still up, while APD dispatcher logs show an animal detail call at 8:57 a.m. about a large pig on Shirley Boulevard.
“She was out of our hands by 9:30-ish,” the mom said. On leaving home, she saw APD Officer Charles Anderson speaking with Miller, who had appeared, it was later speculated, as if summoned by the next door neighbor.
As the pig was secured with a leash, the mom assumed all was well, and she last saw it tethered in the neighbor's driveway around 10:30 a.m. “Piggy is now in the custody of APD,” she wrote, amending her earlier Paws Cause Facebook post. “Please contact them if this is your pig.”
But Anderson didn’t take the 400-pound animal into custody. He agreed to leave the pig in the temporary custody of Miller, who had identified himself as an experienced pig rancher from Hydesville.
“He said he had experience with livestock,” Anderson said. “If Miller hadn’t been there, things wouldn’t have gone the way they did.”
At some point that afternoon, Carrie’s cousin and niece noticed the Humboldt Paws Cause posting, called Lynne, and soon she was headed to the Shirley Boulevard address.
On arrival at around 4:30 p.m., she walked up the driveway and was horrified to find the family’s beloved animal companion in pieces. Its carcass was on one side of the garage, with an array of 30 or more “Seal A Meal” bags full of meat on another as Miller and another, younger and so far unidentified man seemed to be doing the work.
“They were very far along in their project,” Lynne said. “I don’t think he waited very long.” She told them, “You can’t be doing this; you have no right.” Miller, who doesn’t live at the house in which the act was committed, reportedly shot back with, “You have no right to be here.”
Lynne then drove down to the Arcata Police Department to report the matter, but was told to go back and collect license plate numbers from vehicles in the area and take pictures, which she did.
“Why send a 74-year-old woman up to face a person of questionable character?” Carrie later wondered. “Why was there no arrest?”
Meanwhile, Carrie and Jim were returning home from a trip south. Around Benbow, they called Lynne to check in. Right away, they could tell something was wrong. Her mother, not wishing to tell her daughter the horrible truth, said only that police were looking for Princess. But something about her mother’s tone told Carrie all was not well.
On arrival home, they learned the terrible truth – that with the unwitting help of police, Princess had fallen into the custody of someone who viewed her not as a friend, but as 400 pounds of pork. A rifle blast had ended her life, and within a few hours, she’d been butchered and vacuum sealed in plastic bags.
At the neighborhood meeting, Police Chief Brian Ahearn explained the law enforcement side of the case along with Anderson, Detective Sgt. Chris Ortega and Lt. Todd Dokwiler. “This is good for sharing information,” he said.
Ortega said the owner of the Shirley Boulevard house where the slaughter had committed was being cooperative, and that there wasn’t yet any information supporting a conspiracy charge, which some neighbors had urged. Miller, they said was a "guest" of the homeowner. Neighbors also suggested that police seize the boat he arrived at the scene with, but were told that wouldn't be legal unless it was used in the commission of a crime.
The neighbors consider it suspicious that Miller showed up at the scene with the equipment necessary to butcher and package a large animal. “Why, all of a sudden, did he come so fast, and so prepared” Carrie wondered.
"He pulled in the driveway at record speed, checking out and touching the animal," a neighbor said.
Responding to concerns about his behavior, police say they don’t see anything in Miller’s past that indicates that he poses a physical threat to the neighbors.
While information is incomplete, he appears to be somewhat rootless, being associated with multiple addresses throughout the county, including Manila, Eureka, Alton and Hydesville. His employment is as yet unclear.
“He’s bouncing around from place to place,” Dokweiler said. "We have to find all the couches that he's been hitting. He'll turn up, no doubt. A big part of the game for us is patience."
Ahearn defended APD’s actions that morning – leaving Princess with what seemed like a friendly stranger – as a standard procedure that had been successful with a variety of lost farm animals in the past, from cows to goats.
“Given the size, we sort of relied on what we had done before, with absolutely no indication at all of what would happen,” Ahearn said. “Lesson learned.” He said police would more thoroughly vet seemingly helpful neighbors in the future, and be better prepared to handle large animal issues.
While HCSO maintains a livestock sheriff, that individual was off duty that day, and APD was told that an animal trailer would have taken “hours and hours” to arrive.
As the family awaits justice, they’ve done what they can to terms with the wrenching loss of their beloved Princess. They’ve recovered about 50 pounds of her, and buried the remains. But it’s terribly distressing that the suspect may be eating the rest.
"We're ready for a fight, and we want this individual brought to justice," Carrie said.
Arcata Police are expected to issue a press release once the DA’s Office files any formal charges. Anyone with information on Miller's whereabouts is asked to call APD at (707) 822-2428.