The recently released TV series “Making a Murderer” tells the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man freed in 2003 after serving 18 years for a rape he didn’t commit. Avery filed a $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County upon his release, only to be charged and convicted, by the same authorities, of a gruesome murder-torture two years later. The 10-part Netflix series presents powerful evidence that Avery was framed, along with evidence he was guilty nonetheless. At least one piece of implicating data, however, is glossed over.

The series indicates Avery was convicted of animal cruelty at age 20, but the only information beyond that comes from Avery himself. “Another mistake I did, I had a bunch of friends over and we were fooling around with the cat and, I don’t know, they were kind of neggling (sic) it on. I tossed him over the fire and he lit up. You know, it was the family cat. I was young and stupid and hanging around with the wrong people.”

What Avery really did, as reported by the AP and other sources, was pour gasoline on the animal before throwing him into the flames.

The conviction was not admissible in trial, and not every young animal abuser goes on to commit murder.   But, if Avery was indeed guilty of murdering Theresa Hollbach, he would be yet another example of a psychologically disturbed killer whose first targets were animals. Others would include the Boston strangler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the two Columbine high school shooters.

The pattern should not be surprising. Animals, after all, are relatively powerless and less protected by law, so they are easier targets for the psychological disturbances that move people to torment living things.

The FBI recently began to compile a national database of animal cruelty incidents, and animal activists and others hope this might help with the problem. In particular, it can make it easier to identify abusers early on, provide them help, and prevent future incidents.

Meanwhile, the very popular series has gone viral, filling the ‘Net with discussion and debate.