MIAMI (AP) – A South Florida teenager accused of gruesomely killing and mutilating nearly two dozen cats must undergo a psychiatric evaluation before he is released, a judge ruled Monday.

Tyler Hayes Weinman, 18, remained quiet during the hearing, a day after he was charged with 19 counts each of animal cruelty and improperly disposing of an animal body.

In the past month, residents in two Miami neighborhoods found more than two dozen dead cats. Some had been skinned, and it appears a sharp, straight instrument was used in some cases, police said.

Many of the felines were found in the same neighborhoods where Weinman splits his time living with his divorced parents.

Authorities said they had been watching Weinman for some time, but have not released any evidence against him. The arrest warrant remained sealed. The teen was questioned several weeks ago when he was whisked away from his prom. But authorities have been tightlipped about what led them to the charges.

Police said more arrests might be coming, but declined to name suspects.

Weinman’s attorney, David W. Macey, said “the investigation is being run by a lynch mob mentality” after Monday’s hearing.

An arrest report shows Weinman was arrested last month in a separate incident for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license.

“The cat killings weren’t something I expected of anyone who’s sane,” said friend Vincent Warger, 18, who recently graduated from Palmetto High School. “With him he was a nice guy. He was friendly. It’s such a violent thing. I just couldn’t see it happening from him.”

Friend Elliot Evins lives in the same neighborhood where many of the cats were killed and has two cats himself.

“He is not an angry person in the least bit. He’s never erupted on anyone or shown anything that would make me nervous or be anything related to what he’s accused of,” Evins said of Weinman.

Experts say cruelty toward cats, as opposed to other animals, can fulfill a deeper need for control. Cats, unlike dogs, can be more difficult to control. They don’t come when they’re called and are often more independent, said Dr. Randall Lockwood of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and author of “Forensic Investigation of Animal Cruelty.”

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