Real Name: Mabel Marie Callaway Wood
Case: Harassment and Arson
Location: Bonne Terre, Missouri
Date: February 10, 1987
Details: Sixty-eight-year-old Mabel Wood has always loved animals; she has been running a sanctuary for stray dogs in southern Missouri for over fifteen years. In 1985, she moved to a 110-acre farm in Bonne Terre, sixty miles south of St. Louis. She built a $60,000 kennel to house many of the 115 dogs that she was caring. The dogs were offered for adoption, but those who didn't find new homes lived with Mabel on the sanctuary. She felt the farm was an ideal location because her nearest neighbors were over a mile away and would not be disturbed by the dogs.
Eighteen months after Mabel moved out to the farm, her peaceful life was shattered. On the night of December 11, 1986, someone broke into the kennel and shot at some of her dogs with a .22 caliber rifle, killing two and injuring two others. When she discovered the dogs the next day, she rushed the most seriously injured ones to the vet, and they were saved. The police investigated, but at the time, there was a low priority on animal cruelty because the crime was only considered a misdemeanor.
After the shooting, Mabel hired an assistant named Charlie Jacobs to help her. He moved into the guest house and acted as both a hired hand and a night watchman. Two months later, the vandals returned with a vengeance; on the night of February 10, 1987, they burned down the kennel with sixty dogs trapped inside. Around 1AM, Charlie noticed the blaze from his kitchen window. He immediately went to Mabel and told her to call the fire department. He then went to the kennel in attempt to save any dogs inside. Unfortunately, the fire was so intense that Charlie was only able to save one dog; the other fifty-nine were killed. The blaze was so intense that smoke alarms were set off in homes a mile away. The fire completely destroyed the kennel.
According to Mabel, there was no reason for the fire to start accidentally, as the kennel was brand new. She noted that the kennel was burning from the inside, not the outside. She was certain that it was arson because the dogs were "blazing" as if an accelerant had been put on them. Four days after the fire, the local fire department began an investigation. They talked to people who lived in the area; many were surprised of the kennel's existence because the dogs were so quiet. The investigators cleaned off the kennel floor and noticed a "spalding" pattern which occurs when a flammable substance is ignited on concrete. The extreme heat causes the concrete to crack or erode.
Investigators believe that on the night of the fire, the assailant entered through the doors that separated the two parts of the kennel. The assailant then poured gasoline on the dogs and the walls and floors of the kennel. They then went back out the doors and lit the fire. Once it was determined that arson had caused the fire, police officials joined the investigation. One hundred yards away from the kennel, they found a tire track in the mud. A plaster mold was made of it.
There are few leads in the case and any possible suspects have been eliminated. Mabel has been deeply bothered by the fire, but she had a brand new kennel built within ten months with new security features. Despite this, she is still being terrorized. The assailants have spread nails across her driveway. They have also sent death threats to her over the phone. On two occasions, her house has been shot at. Finally, graffiti with the sinister warning "Quiet or Die" was painted across the entrance sign of her kennel. Although her family and friends want her to move again, Mabel insists on staying. The vandals have yet to be captured.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 11, 1989 episode.
Some sources state that the fire occurred on Monday, February 9.
Results: Unsolved. In October of 1994, Mabel's dogs were targeted once again. One of them was shot dead, while another was beaten. A third dog was missing; it is not known if it was ever found. It is also not known if these incidents were related to the previous fire or shooting.
Sadly, Mabel Wood passed away on July 4, 2012, at the age of ninety-one. Local Sheriff Dan Bullock (no known relation to Seth Bullock) was working for the St. Francois County Sheriff at the time of the fire and was interviewed for the show. He followed several leads, but none of them panned out. It is entirely possible the media exposure to the case frightened off any further vandalism attempts.
- Mabel Wood at Unsolved.com
- Fire kills 59 dogs
- 59 dogs die in 'roaring inferno'
- Kennel Owner Links Fire To Dog Killings
- Arson caused dog sanctuary fire
- Fire that killed dogs ruled arson; few clues
- Official Blames Arson For Fire At Shelter Where 59 Dogs Died
- Dog Shelter's Owner Worries Terror Is Back - One Animal Dead, Another Shot, Beaten
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Mabel Wood
- Mabel Wood at Find a Grave