Woods Cross man tortured guinea pigs and posted videos online, charges allege

A Woods Cross man was indicted by the federal government last week for accusing him of filming himself torturing guinea pigs and posting the videos online. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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WOODS CROSS – A Davis County man who already faces animal cruelty charges in state court is now charged in federal court with filming and torturing guinea pigs and putting the videos in line.

Samuel Jonas Webster, 18, of Woods Cross, was indicted by a grand jury in federal court in Utah last Wednesday on 23 counts related to the depiction of animal cruelty. Webster was taken to the Davis County Jail on Monday.

Webster purchased three guinea pigs from pet stores in Farmington, Salt Lake City and West Jordan between October 16 and 25.

The charging documents detail 18 videos uploaded to a YouTube account – which has since been deleted – that allegedly show Webster breaking guinea pigs’ bones, cutting them with knives and ripping out body parts, among other explicit and graphic forms of torture. The videos also featured names such as “Guinea Pig Torture”, “Ripped a piece of her ear”, and “Torture is addicting”.

Investigators say Webster would post comments on YouTube videos in response to people calling for his arrest. Webster wrote online: “Killing and torturing is my favorite thing to do”, “Someone help me before I kill everyone” and “Torture is like a drug to me, it’s very addictive. Hearing the cry of pain is so satisfying,” according to charging documents.

The federal court documents are similar to those filed in Farmington 2nd District Court on November 1. Webster was charged with five counts of aggravated cruelty to an animal, a Class A misdemeanor.

West Bountiful and Woods Cross Police received several tips in late October on the YouTube channel which featured at least 17 videos depicting the torture and killing of guinea pigs. Investigators “found the videos disturbing and coordinated an online effort to search for the individual responsible,” before finding evidence that Webster was behind the chain, according to state court charges.

Before the YouTube channel was taken down for multiple policy violations, online sleuths recorded the videos and took screenshots of the videos. These investigators then created a Reddit forum where people could analyze the videos in hopes of finding the identity of the torturer. Online investigators later concluded that Webster was the attacker and reported him to police, charging the state of the documents.

Shortly after receiving the information, police served a search warrant on Webster’s home and found the shed where the videos were filmed, in addition to “corroborating evidence,” according to the charging documents. A police affidavit says officers found blood spatter and animal remains during the search.

Webster was arrested and jailed before posting bail shortly thereafter.

In a motion filed Friday, federal prosecutors said they are seeking to keep Webster in jail because they note he may be a flight risk to avoid prosecution. The petition also details Webster’s alleged online activity.

Prosecutors say Discord – an online chat app where people have digital spaces to socialize – deactivated two of Webster’s accounts in March 2021. One account was deactivated due to “posting content that sexualized people under the age of 18,” while the other account was disabled due to “its posting of gory content, animal cruelty, or other content intended to shock others,” according to the detention petition.

Federal investigators also say cookie data suggests that in August 2021, Webster visited multiple rape-related website domains. Subsequent web searches indicate that Webster researched how much a hamster would cost, where to buy rabbits, and “killed and tortured a guinea pig,” the motion says.

After his arrest in October, photos taken at Webster’s home appeared to show a tablet and a two-terabyte hard drive in the house, although police did not seize either device. During a subsequent search in March, police found neither of the two devices seen in the photographs.

Federal prosecutors argued in the detention motion that Webster “demonstrated a quick, nimble, and sophisticated ability to adapt and modify his various media accounts when banned by the platforms he used to post his videos. He has also demonstrated the same ability to hide his research on the Internet.” They also note that Webster allegedly hid the purchase of four guinea pigs from his immediate family for several days.

Webster’s state case was still pending on Tuesday as a competency assessment is pending. If convicted, each misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. In his federal case, each animal cruelty charge carries a potential maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

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Jacob Scholl joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. He covers northern Utah communities, federal courts, and technology.

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