Who is responsible for a fire that killed over 60 dogs?

Arson destroyed the animal sanctuary

Only one dog was able to be saved

CASE DETAILS

In Bonne Terre, Missouri, Mabel Woods had dedicated many years of her life running an animal sanctuary on a sprawling 110 acre farm.  The sanctuary provided a loving and caring home for dogs that might otherwise have been impounded.  She even built a $60,000 kennel to house her 115 dogs.  The dogs were offered for adoption, but those that didn’t find new homes lived out their lives on the sanctuary.  Mabel felt the farm was in an ideal location because her nearest neighbors were over a mile away and would not be disturbed by the dogs.

Mabel hired Charlie as a night watchman

But eighteen months after she moved to the farm, Mabel’s peaceful life was shattered.  One the night of December 11, 1986, someone broke into her kennel.  The intruder fired at least four rounds from a .22 caliber rifle, killing two dogs and seriously wounding two others.  Mabel was devastated:

“The next morning when I went up to open the kennel, I found my dogs dead.  In the beginning, I thought, oh, there’s been a fight.  They’ve killed each other.  But as I looked, I realized that they had been shot… I was upset about it, and I called the sheriff’s office, but I knew there was nothing, really nothing that could be done at that point.”

Firemen determined it was “spalling”

Police officials investigated the shooting.  But because the killing of an animal is only a misdemeanor, the case was given a low priority.  After the shooting, Mabel hired a man named Charlie Jacobs to help out around the kennel.  Charlie moved into the guesthouse and doubled as a hired hand and night watchman.  For two months, nothing unusual happened.  Mabel and Charlie settled into a comfortable routine.

Then on the night of February 10, 1987, Charlie was in his kitchen when he noticed a bright orange glow through the window. Fifty yards away, the kennel was on fire.  By the time Charlie reached the kennel, it was completely engulfed in flames.  Inside were 60 dogs.  According to Charlie, the animals had no way to escape:

“It was awful.  The flames were real high, and you could hear the yips every once in a while, and the place was on fire, I mean, it’s like an inferno.”

Police found a tire track 100 yards away

Charlie managed to pull one dog from the flames, but could do nothing to save the others.  The fire was so intense that it set off smoke alarms in homes over a mile away.  According to Mabel, there was no reason for the kennel to burn:

“The kennel was so new, a great deal of it was green lumber. I knew it had to be arson, because the dogs were blazing, which they would not have been without something put on them.  As I watched the kennel come down to the ground and realized that my dogs were all dead… I just couldn’t imagine why anyone would do that.  There just wasn’t anything left except a few scraps of metal and the concrete.”

Four days after the blaze, the local volunteer fire department began an investigation, headed by investigator Charlie Geesing:

“We wanted to clean off the debris of the barn, to get a look at the floor.  We started to see a pattern that’s called ‘spalling.’”

“Spalling” occurs when a flammable substance is ignited on concrete.  According to Charlie Geesing, the extreme heat causes the concrete to crack or erode:

“This pattern is not normal in a fire and led us to the assumption that the fire was set with a flammable liquid.  We believe that night that the suspect entered the building through the door they used normally to get between the two rows of pens.  He entered the building, poured the flammable liquid down the walls as he went in. The hallway led to a bigger open area at the far end.  He continued pouring the wall.  At that point, he probably lit it.  And then he took off.”

Once it was determined that arson was the cause of the fire, police officials joined the investigation.  One hundred yards from where the kennel once stood, police found a tire track in the mud.  They made a plaster mold of the track.  According to Sheriff Jack Cade of the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Department, the plaster mold and spalling pattern burned into the kennel floor are the only evidence police have in this case:

“We don’t have any leads, don’t have any suspects that haven’t been eliminated.  Most of the people that you find in this part of the country are dog lovers.  We have dogs, we have hunting dogs, we care a lot about our dogs.  There are people in this county, who would shoot you a whole lot quicker over their dog than they would their wife.”

Within ten months of the fire, Mabel had built a new kennel. She is still haunted by the memory of that tragic night and fears that whoever was responsible may strike again at any time.  The person who burned down Mabel’s kennel has never been caught and the case is still open.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season two with Robert Stack and in season six with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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35 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I apologize, I did not read the comment by Cheryl that Mabel has passed. Is anyone managing the kennel? Thank you

    Reply

  2. Amazonwatcher

    i bet it was the person who bought the property like the one guy said property value is high and want the land or a resource it could have

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    It’s the 100% her neighbor. Did it because of the noise.

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      I agree. 100% the neighbor. I believe it was probably the barking that drove them to do it. My neighbors dog has barked all day and it isn’t hard to imagine that pushing someone over the edge.

      Reply

  4. chanita

    that was cruel

    Reply

  5. Tami Holladay Brueggemann

    I first met Mabel when I volunteered at Open Door Animal Sanctuary. We worked there together for several years until she left to start Martha’s Animal Sanctuary. I remember all too well when this fire happened. Even though I have seen it so many times while working at rescue shelters, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of cruelty to animals that people are capable of. Mable was a wonderful woman. I’m sorry to find out that she is gone now.

    Reply

  6. Chris

    I know one of Mabel’s children and have talked to him about this story. He is still very heartbroken and they have never solved this mystery. I believe this case is worth re-opening to investigate. Too many questions have gone unanswered. The Sheriff even made an attempt at humor by saying “people would be more upset over shooting their dog than their wife”. The neighbor had just gotten out of prison over an arson charge. They had been taunting Mabel, making threats, anonymous threating phone calls, shooting puppies, and painting threats on the building. This was a new building with green wood and someone had to be really angry in order to do this. This is a hate crime and today the laws would prosecute this case without limitation. I am tired of the “nobody cares” attitude around here. Just because it is Southeast Missouri everybody just shrugs it off, but justice knows no bounds and some people would love to have closer on this. Please re-open this case so that the person or persons responsible for this horrific act will be brought to justice and everyone can have closer. I can’t believe that Mabel’s final wishes weren’t even honored and the property was sold extremely cheap after her passing. Something is very fishy. This area is very corrupt in politics and the police force while they look the other direction and ignore the crime that goes on here. Our leadership should be held to higher standards and this case needs to be solved. THank you for your help!

    Reply

  7. Chanita

    That Was Very Brutal! How Could Someone be So Cruel
    Like That?

    Reply

  8. Unknown

    That’s Very Mean! How Could Someone Be So Cruel Like That?

    Reply

  9. Petaa motex

    This was a cowardly act that may go unsolved. Burn a kennel? Seriously?

    Reply

  10. Peggy B

    Mabel Marie Callaway Wood
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    Birth: Mar. 21, 1921
    Cornwall
    Madison County
    Missouri, USA
    Death: Jul. 4, 2012
    Fredericktown
    Madison County
    Missouri, USA

    Born March 21, 1921 at Cornwall, the daughter of the late Dawson and Margaret (Martin) Callaway. In addition to her parents she was preceded in death by two brothers Ernest Callaway and William Callaway.
    Mabel will be remembered by many as the co-founder of Martha’s Animal Sanctuary, which she operated here in Missouri for nearly thirty years, dedicating her life to the care and protection of animals. Caring for those animals became the single most important thing in her life.
    She will be missed by all those who knew and loved her, including three sons, Darrell Griffon of the State of California, Jaryl Giffon of Fenton, and Jack Wood of Bonne Terre, 7 grandchildren, and numerous other relatives and friends.

    Reply

  11. Peggy B

  12. Peggy B

    ANYBODY KNOWS MISSOURI IS THE PUPPY MILL CAPITAL OF THE UNITED STATES. AND “QUIET OR DIE” SIMPLY MEANS, THAT SHE PROBABLY KNEW ABOUT THEIR HORRIFIC TREATMENT OF THE DOGS THEY BREED & THATS WHY SHE OPENED UP THE SANCTUARY AND THATS WHY SHE WAS BEING TARGETED AND HARASSED & WHY LAW ENFORCEMENT WAS NO HELP. THEY ARE PAID VERY WELL TO TURN A BLIND EYE BY THESE PUPPY MILL PRODUCERS. EVEN THE USDA WHO IS SUPPOSE TO OVERSEE THESE MILLS ARE PAID TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY. THE AKC MAKES SO MUCH MONEY ON THESE MILLS REGISTERING THESE PUPPIES, THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE TREATED OF THESE DOGS EITHER. IT’S ALL ABOUT GREED!!! ALL IN THE NAME OF THAT MIGHTY DOLLAR! LEGISLATORS WON’T PASS A LAW TO MAKE IT A FELONY TO KILL A DOG. THEY ARE LOOKED AT AS PROPERTY. IT IS A SIMPLE MISDEMEANOR IN MOST STATES, THAT BASICALLY GIVES THEM A SLAP ON THE WRIST! & MAYBE A SMALL FINE. THEY HAVE NO CONSCIENCE!!! THEY ALL HAVE THESE POOR SWEET LITTLE INNOCENT PUPPY/DOGS BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS!! PLEASE RESEARCH PUPPY MILLS ONLINE AND LEARN OF ALL THE EVIL & GREED THAT IS GOING ON IN THIS COUNTRY REGARDING PUPPY MILLS. THIS IS WHY WE HAVE MORE THAN 1 MILLION DOGS A YEAR BEING KILLED PUT DOWN IN SHELTERS EVERY YEAR!!! AND THEY JUST KEEP PRODUCING MORE PUPPIES!! IT IS SICKENING. THIS STORY WAS FROM 1987 & MISS MABLE HAS PASSED. IF YOU WANT TO HELP, HELP ANY OF THE THOUSANDS OF RESCUE ORGANIZATIONS NATIONWIDE THAT ARE TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. EVEN MORE THAN THAT, PLEASE SIGN PETITIONS, THEY ARE ALL OVER FACEBOOK IF YOU LIKE THE RESCUE PAGES, TO PUT A STOP TO THESE PUPPY MILLS. THANKS SO MUCH FOR CARING.

    Reply

  13. Becca

    According to an old article I just read, the police believe this was a revenge matter against Mabel, and had nothing to do with the dogs.

    Reply

  14. Dee

    What became of the dogs that were in Mable’s new kennel when she lost her farm & was placed in a nursing home? R.I.P. Mabel, a wonderful woman. Is this still an active investigation?

    Reply

  15. Rob

    I feel whoever did this had a grudge with Mabel, because she loved those dogs so much. I’m sure this person knew her, maybe someone from her past?

    Reply

  16. Anonymous

    Did they look into her neighbors? Sounds to me like it’s 1 of them.

    Reply

  17. Celeste

    Someone must have had it in for Mabel for long enough to set fire to her sanctuary? Why on earth would someone do that to someone who’s just trying to help these dogs find loving new homes?

    Reply

  18. Adele

    I am with the other comments. It was written “quiet or die” which to me that means that its too loud at her property. I would check into neighbors. Match up the tires to the vehicles in neighboring areas.
    People can be cruel but at the same time dogs can be noisy to the people that do not like dogs. But not to kill the dogs in that fire though. That is rather drastic.

    Reply

  19. ROSE E ANDREWS

    WHO WULD DO SUSH A THING.

    Reply

  20. Dr. Jeffrey F. Anderson

    After seeing the show about Label’s kennel I am sure that the person or persons involved in these attacks is a hunter or hunters. This makes sense with her nearest neighbor being over a mile away and the surrounding farm land where hunting can take place, perhaps at times when the dogs bark hearing the game and hunters near thus disturbing the hunt.

    Reply

    • Matthew P.

      Seriously? Hunters? As I Hunter, I would get permission near or on the farm. Wild animals eventually will careless about the dogs barking.

      Reply

  21. MDCSH

    Though Mabel is gone…was the purchase of her land in any way possible due to a foreclosure of the property? Former owner who didn’t leave property to kids but sold instead? Somebody jealous of a “single” woman having so much? Some people don’t understand why a person would invest so much in animals when people are suffering so greatly…just some thoughts…

    And, she sold the property but what happened to her dogs or the person working the kennel?

    Reply

  22. Anonymous

    I agree that this must have been a neighbor. This is a dangerous person. I wonder if the local authorities have investigated the abutters. I wonder how much effort was really put into solving this.

    Reply

  23. Courtney

    I agree it was a neighbor who didn’t like the noise. Why else would they write, “Quiet or die?” Were neighbors EVER looked at?
    God bless Mabel for her love and commitment to those dogs… But it’s never too late for justice!

    Reply

  24. Deanna Adams

    We like to make donation to Mabel’s kennel The tearful and soulful story pertaining to Mabel’s tragedy needs support and love. Do you have an address were I can send the check. Thank you. Deanna Adams 909-884-6105 c/o Victory Chapel, 1156 North F, San Bernardino, Ca. 92410

    Reply

    • SimplyKelly

      There is no longer a kennel. Miss Mabel died at age 90 in 2012. The arson and attacks are now so old, that it could be assumed, with a lot of trust, that the arsonist has also passed away.
      There’s nothing to make a donation to. I respond to your comment, Deanna, because I don’t want anyone to scam you & take your $. People use stories like these to collect funds & create many scams. Also, it’s not safe in this day and age to post your address, phone #, & any such personal details. Especially not on a random public blog, for all to see.

      Reply

  25. Cheryl

    Just FYI. The case was never solved. Someone from the link below contacted LE to find out how Mabel was doing. In 2006, Mabel had to sell her farm and move into a nursing home. She passed away on September 23rd, 2008 at age 90.
    http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=186667

    My prediction is it was a male age 20-25 who did this and perhaps stopped because he was caught committing a crime unrelated to the incidents. I would look at men of that age in the county who were arrested and locked up not long after the fire. I would also look at anyone arrested for other arsons and/or had a record of drug or alcohol abuse. If he married, I’m sure he was abusive to his wife and family.

    Reply

  26. Emily

    You need to investigate all the neighbors, the people who live nearby. The words ‘quiet or die’ are words of threat for silence. I believe they did not like the noise, the barks, so they murdered the dogs.. I’m scared that it’ll happen again with Mabel rebuilding.. I want this case solved,

    Reply

  27. Elrox

    I want to start a go fund me for a reward ! It’s never too late for justice. God bless this woman .

    Reply

    • Carson87

      Yeah- unless I missed something on the show (don’t think so, as I just saw it as a rewind…and with DVR…;), this was disturbing enough to me, personally, to get online, search the web for updates and local info…and do some investigatory surmising myself…not to mention set up this acct and blabber my fingers off via iPhone… But I digress:
      #1: RIP to a sweet lady.
      #2: I don’t think anyone (at least on forums’s 1st page) here or on show has even touched the factors REALLY behind this (besides perhaps the few folks inquiring about the man who subsequently bought the property…)- and that would explain why all this time, apparent opportunities to secure some solid leads or theories…etc, have not come up or any closure to come in the future apparently. Since everyone seemed genuinely concerned for her and helpful, I believe they fulfilled due diligence in investigation…I don’t want to say they did a poor job, esp since so little is KNOWN on my part…but I think perhaps it was so unusual a case, or done so craftily, that they eluding any/all detection.
      #3: Dont buy the theory on her help…all he needed to do was quit the job he had SOUGHT OUT (presumably) if the dogs bothered him…and esp wouldn’t continue to harass…

      So, it seems to me that either a personal beef, under-the-radar value of property…or another outside the box motive that just wasn’t explored was at hand. It’d be very smart to pull this apparent “hick-crime” w a clearly established motive if your intentions were none of the above…to cover tracks. The “Quiet or Die” sign is honestly the best piece of evidence in my mind, but for opposite reason than one would normally think. Clearly noise would be the first idea on an investigstor’s mind, not to mention that she- an elderly lady living alone, at the time- probably would have at least gotten the point that someone wanted her out after the first couple of violent, gun related incidences…

      I have a full theory, but is completely based on imagination and circumstantial evidence (at best) but if my soon-to-be-done evaluation of a few facts about the property and getting feel for the local community… I’ll post it then, rather than sound too tooooo looney.
      ***Writing “Quiet or Die” – after at least 4 incidences with deadly weapons and so on…would be an indictment on any of the (presumably) FEW rural neighbors- and I’m almost sure that would have wrapped this up well before TV ran an episode…the toothless trash w 18 priors and no self control would have been cuffed and locked up immediately.
      This was a cover- for something—unless I’m wrong about the integrity and assumed intelligence of any capable investigatory unit/community, not to mention the helpful exposure that so often yields results from Unsolved Mysteries.

      Reply

    • Erin Anomous

      Mable Wood was soon seized by the county under a guardianship conservatoire. Her property went into the hands of the local. Auctioneer and her wealth disappeared she was in a local low cost facility so I am not sure how that happened. She Passed away in Madison county although she was a ward of St Francois county. She was taken back to her her place of birth for burial. She has surviving children. Her effort to keep the animal shelters going in Bonne Terre lost to no funding and were not honored by the local guardian as one of her wishes.

      Reply

      • Support of Guardians

        You have it all wrong!!! She lived her life doing what she loved sheltering her animals until the time came when her funds were exhausted and her debilitating health took toll. She nor her animals were being taken care of so she was appointed a guardian to help her and her animals were seized by animal agency to treat and find homes for. Her property was sold to pay for her care in a very nice and expensive nursing facility where she was taken care of for the remainder of her life. Too many people don’t realize the cost of nursing care and assume that because someone becomes “a ward of the state” that the state just pays for everything! But NOT when you have assets. You have to exhaust your assets FIRST! I am personally greatful for the Division of Senior Services and court appointed guardians to help those in need as Ms. Wood was. Isn’t the memory of her and her once upon a time sanctuary enough? It may not have had a forever operation but that was beyond control to her situation.

        Reply

    • Jason G.

      After watching this story i would like to personally hunt this psycho down, lock him/her in a chain link fence cage, dump gas on him/her, light him/her up and mock him/her as he/she burns. I can say that after they said that this psycho wrote, ” quiet or die.” It has to be some one that lives close. Like a neighbor. Most likely a hunter, disgruntled that dogs are scaring off the wild game. I find it highly suspect that the local law enforcement haven’t been able to catch this a-hole by now. They’re not taking this case seriously or someone they know or are related to is the waist of life, dog murdering, arsonist.

      Reply

    • Eric WB

      I Get BY THE LORD GOD MOST HIGH, 1 COR CH 12-14, IT was comparators of hers, in the area, as the other people are related to officials, in the community. The case has suppressed.

      Reply