Third alleged attempt to kill a fur-wearer since 2012
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio––Unable to hire a hit man to kill “someone who is wearing fur” in 2012, Meredith Marie Lowell, 35, on November 20, 2019 apparently decided to try to do the killing herself––for the second time in less than a year.
Cleveland Heights police chief Anne Mecklenburg told media that Lowell was charged with attempted murder and felonious assault, with bond set at $1 million, after stabbing a babysitter at about 5:15 p.m. just inside the main entrance to the Fairmount Presbyterian Church on Fairmount Boulevard.
Mistook faux fur boots for real fur
Mecklenburg said Lowell apparently mistook the victim’s faux fur boots for real fur.
“The victim’s current condition was not immediately available,” reported Kaylee Remington of Cleveland.com, “but police said she was taken to University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. Police report that she was stabbed twice in the arm and once in the abdomen.”
According to the Cleveland Heights police report, summarized WKYC television news, “A 911 caller first told dispatch she did not witness the incident, but believed the victim was a child, which was false. The caller locked herself in an office, telling dispatch that the suspect was still armed and inside the church.
“The victim later told police she is a babysitter for the church and had just dropped off a group of children for choir practice when Lowell suddenly entered the main hall. The victim said Lowell approached her and appeared to push or punch her before walking away.
“Another witness saw blood running from the victim’s arm and spotted a kitchen knife in Lowell’s hand as she walked away. The witness yelled for help, which led to a man restraining Lowell on the floor until police arrived.
“The victim wrapped a sweatshirt around her wound until she was taken for treatment.
“A second 911 caller told dispatch,” WKYC added, “that Lowell ‘literally walked right in out of nowhere and just went after the first person that she saw.’”
Stated Fairmount Presbyterian Church interim pastor and chief of staff Jessica MacMillan, who has served the church since February 2019, “The Crescendo Choir children were taken to a secure room accompanied by adults while the perpetrator was being restrained.”
Also tried to stab woman in February 2019
Cleveland Heights police chief Mecklenburg told media that Lowell still had charges pending against her in a similar case.
According to Tom Cleary of Heavy.com, “Lowell was arrested in January 2019 and charged with felonious assault in University Heights, Ohio, records show. She was indicted on the charge on February 5, 2019. She was accused of harming or attempting to cause harm to a woman with a knife, according to court documents.
“Lowell was freed on $5,000 bond on February 6, 2019. She was referred for a psychiatric evaluation as part of the ongoing case. She was also ordered to forfeit possession of a Swiss Army knife.
“The case is still pending, according to Cuyahoga County court records,” Cleary confirmed.
Released from federal pen in 2013
U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan in March 2013 released Lowell from the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, which specializes in mental health services for female inmates.
Gaughan allowed Lowell to return to the custody of her parents, Jeffrey F. Lowell and Madlen Lowell of Cleveland Heights, writing that “On January 11, 2013, Leslie Powers, forensic psychologist, issued a report stating that the defendant remained incompetent due to mental disease or defect, but did not pose a danger to herself, the community, or property.”
Nonetheless finding that Meredith Lowell’s mental illness prohibited her from possessing firearms, Gaughan ordered the Lowell family to dispose of handguns, shotguns and rifles that were in the home on the day Meredith Lowell was arrested for her attempt to hire a hit man.
Overruled prosecution warning
Gaughan, according to Cleary of Heavy.com, released Lowell despite a warning from the prosecution that “releasing her could “put the general public at risk of serious bodily harm or death.”
Wrote Cleary, “According to prosecutors, a guard at the Cuyahoga County Jail said that while Lowell was being held there she passed a note saying, if she was freed she would, ‘contract another hitman to kill a person who is wearing fur or even kill the fur wearing person myself.’”
Said the prosecution statement, “The Government is concerned that a release to her home is inadequate to protect the general public. In the Defendant’s house are items made with fur which she specifically mentioned to the ‘hitman’ as motivators for her actions. More worrisome is the presence of firearms in the house observed during the FBI arrest of the Defendant and subsequent search of the house.
“Based upon the findings of the reports, and the facts of this case,” the prosecution statement continued, “the Government is requesting this Court order the Defendant be examined for dangerousness, and that the examination should include an evaluation of her future stated intentions, possible living situation if found not dangerous, and stressors in those living situations that could affect the finding of dangerousness.”
Used library computer to try to hire “hit”
The original case involving Meredith Marie Lowell became public after the Federal Bureau of Investigation on February 21, 2012 arrested her for allegedly trying to use a Facebook account accessed from a public library computer to solicit the murder of “someone who is wearing fur.”
According to an affidavit sworn on February 17, 2012 by FBI special agent Ryan M. Taylor, “On November 4, 2011 the FBI was provided information that a person owning a Facebook page under the name Anne Lowery,” an alias that Lowell acknowledged using, “posted a message on Facebook stating that Lowery wanted to hire a hit man to kill someone wearing fur.”
A Florida animal advocate named Anne Lowery made global headlines in January 2010 for
spending nearly $75,000 in a futile effort to save her parrot Areba from cancer, but ANIMALS 24-7 found no indication that Lowell knowingly assumed the identity of the Florida woman.
Wanted to create Facebook community to plan the killing
Said the Facebook message, “I would like to create an online community on Facebook which would allow me to find someone who is willing to kill someone who is wearing fur toward the end of October 2011 or early November 2011 or possibly in January 2012 or February 2012. I am willing to pay this person up to $830-$850.”
Using the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org, Lowell allegedly invited response from “the Animal Liberation Front, the Animal Rights Militia, and similar groups––and anyone else who believes that people who wear fur should be killed.”
Testified FBI agent Taylor, “As a result of this message, the FBI began to investigate the Facebook posting, to include engaging the Facebook page with the use of an online covert employee.”
The FBI online covert employee initiated contact with Lowell by seeking to ascertain her
seriousness, and by warning her that if she was serious, she was undertaking a criminal act.
FBI warned Lowell
“If you are serious I will help you,” the online covert employee told Lowell, according to the affidavit, “but you must immediately take down or change your post before Facebook whacks it or law enforcement arrests you!”
Added the online covert employee, “Posting an advertisement to buy a hit man is not only illegal, it brings negative attention to what some of us are doing in shadows.”
Lowell outlined her intentions in detail 11 days later, on November 15, 2011, according to the affidavit.
“I think the time for you to do the job would definitely be in January or February on a Tuesday sometime between 6:20 at night and 7:00 at night,” the affidavit quoted Lowell.
“I cannot have you do it earlier in the day,” Lowell allegedly told the FBI online covert employee.
The timing appears to have coincided with Lowell’s usual library visiting time.
Description of intended victim
“I assume you know why I am willing to pay someone like you to kill a person who is wearing fur,” the affidavit continued to quote Lowell. “Here is the description of what the person should be who is wearing fur who should be killed: any ethnicity and any race, age preferably 14 years old, but should be at least 12 years old, hopefully a teenager or older, should not be a child, boy, girl, woman, or man, height at least 4 feet, weight–any. Should not be anyone I currently know and definitely should not be anyone my family knows.
“I will pay you after you kill the person who is wearing fur at the above mentioned time and time of the year,” Lowell allegedly added. “The amount of money I will pay will be $730,” less than the Facebook offer.
“You need to bring a gun that has a silencer on it and that can be easily concealed in your pants pocket or coat. Do not wear anything that even looks even remotely like fur. If you do not want to risk the possibility of getting caught with a gun before the job, bring a sharp knife that is at least four inches long. I want the person to be dead in less than 2 minutes.”
“I am serious”
On December 29, 2011, Lowell allegedly reiterated to the FBI online covert employee, “I am serious about paying you to kill someone who is wearing fur at the location mentioned in an earlier e-mail to you and will pay you after you kill the person who is wearing fur. I am paying you to kill one person wearing fur who is 12 or older.”
E-mails attributed to Lowell repeatedly expressed anxiety about coming up with the money she initially offered, and suggested substituting gold jewelry instead.
Lowell allegedly stipulated that she wanted the killing to be done at the Cleveland Heights library building, “near the playground,” adding “I am planning on getting caught.”
Elaborated a January 10, 2012 e-mail allegedly sent from Lowell to the FBI online covert operative, “I plan on staying after the hit for reasons of benefit to the movement. And I think being caught would actually benefit me personally.”
What to do about collection of fur ads?
From the November 1, 2011 first outline of the alleged plot on Facebook, Lowell appeared
to obsess about what to do with “fur advertisements collected since the beginning of [her] investigation into the fur industry.”
Lowell asked on her Facebook wall, “Do you think the police will find the advertisements if I leave them at home during the hit event/protest?”
Another Facebook posting, also on November 1, 2011, stated that Lowell would “probably have to hold off on the hit job until next week or even January or February 2012.
“I have been throwing away some unneeded papers,” Lowell explained, “and by this morning I realized that I just was not ready. I still need to throw more papers away so that the paper load is lighter and less weight to carry around during the event. Most of the current papers are about the fur industry that I have been printing out since 2008 at the library.”
FBI introduced second agent
“Due to some unfortunate schedule changes,” Lowell allegedly e-mailed on January 10, 2012, “I realize the hit will have to be held off until October.”
On January 18, 2012, Lowell allegedly added, “If you are unable to do this hit in October, then I will have to at least try to hire someone else––maybe even a library employee.”
Early in the investigation, said the FBI affidavit, the FBI introduced Lowell to a second
online covert employee, who posed as “a female animal rights activist who served as a neutral sounding board for Lowell.”
The second persona “did not encourage or discourage Lowell’s beliefs. Rather, she just let Lowell discuss her ideas and has not engaged her in conversation about the hit man.”
Upset by aquarium
Messages from Lowell to the second covert persona, included in the affidavit, offered clues to Lowell’s circumstances and state of mind.
On January 18, 2012, Lowell told the second covert persona, “I am for animal liberation, animal rights movements, and animal welfare. I certainly see nothing wrong with liberating animals from laboratories and fur factory farms. I am for taking legal risks if it means helping animals, even when it means risking my own personal freedom and going to jail and/or prison. Animal rights attourney [sic], activist, rescue[r], and vegan says it is okay to risk legal trouble to help animals and I believe this 100%.”
But the longest and most revealing communication from Lowell contained in the FBI affidavit was sent to the first online covert employee on February 15, 2012.
“I had to go to Texas for longer than a week because my uncle who lived there died and he
had no one down there who could deal with his legal stuff,” Lowell offered.
Later in the e-mail, Lowell wrote, “Something which especially makes me upset is how
the city of Cleveland just opened up an aquarium.”
Frustrated by living at home
After discussion of her opposition to the aquarium, according to the affidavit, Lowell added, “I hope for the best outcome for the hit and at least expect for the police to understand why I came to the realization why it is necessary.
“I am frustrated with living at my current home for several reasons,” the affidavit transcript of the e-mail continued. “I live with people in my home who enjoy eating meat. My mother refuses to get rid of fur items. My mother still buys eggs and leather and wool products, and I have a brother who refuses to stop wearing wool. Both of my brothers don’t see what is wrong with wearing leather.
“Until the hit on someone wearing fur is done, I will not be able to get away from my house. So now you know part of the reason why I am going to stay at the location of the hit after the hit is done at the library––partially to get away from my house. I cannot stand living in a house where there are fur products that my family refuses to get rid of.”
Asked for advice if jailed
Several paragraphs later, according to the affidavit transcript, Lowell asked, “If I do end up going to jail or prison, do you have some advice for me?”
Still later in the same e-mail, according to the FBI affidavit, Lowell mentioned that, “I especially want for the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute animals to be liberated and put somewhere where they are not tortured.”
FBI searches of trash from the Lowell home found that between November 2, 2011 and February 13, 2012 Meredith Lowell received apparent introductory appeals from animal charities including RedRover (formerly called United Animal Nations), Pasado’s Safe Haven, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Best Friends Animal Society, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
The trash searches also discovered gun magazines sent to the home in the name of Whitney Lowell, then 29, the elder of Meredith Marie Lowell’s two brothers.
The FBI affidavit noted that Whitney Lowell held a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Lived at parents’ home with two brothers
Meredith Lowell, Whitney Lowell, and younger brother Emerson Lowell apparently all still lived at home with parents Jeffrey F. and Madlen Lowell, now 74 and 69, respectively, in a Coventry Road neighborhood near the library which decades ago was considered a hub of the Cleveland counterculture.
None of the family appear to have been well-known either in the community or online.
Meredith Lowell was listed among the 2003 graduates of the now defunct Greater Cleveland Christian School in Middleburg Heights, a Cleveland suburb, which operated from 1996 to 2004.
ANIMALS 24-7 found no mention of pets in Meredith Lowell’s electronic communications,
shared by various correspondents, and none in communications appearing to be from her brothers.
A female Whitney Lowell in about the same age range as Meredith Lowell and her brothers, who is a reptile breeder and operates two pit bull advocacy web sites in another part of the U.S., told ANIMALS 24-7 in 2012 that she had no awareness of the family.
Although Lowell mentioned in several emails that she had been collecting information about the fur trade since 2008, ANIMALS 24-7 found no communication from Lowell to other animal advocates predating an email of November 2, 2010 sent to Los Angeles activist attorney and video producer Shannon Keith, using Keith’s Uncaged Films email address.
Keith has represented militant animal advocacy organizations including Showing Animals
Respect & Kindness, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA. Her organization Animal Rescue, Media, & Education (ARME) led a campaign which on November 22, 2011 won passage of an ordinance against selling fur in West Hollywood, California.
Lowell praised a Keith production called Skin Trade, reciting complaints against the fur industry and fur-wearers.
“Looks like I never responded to her,” Keith told ANIMALS 24-7.
Lowell wrote to Keith again on May 17, 2011, but Keith did not respond to that email, either.
Exchanges with PETA & HSUS
Lowell on January 25, 2011 wrote to PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, in response to an online appeal. PETA Foundation correspondence assistant Karen Dickerson responded by sending Lowell several suggestions for engaging in legal anti-fur activism.
“I would like to e-mail Oprah Winfrey and President Obama but not sure if they check their e-mail or even what their e-mail addresses are,” Lowell responded to Dickerson. “I would like to e-mail some police departments and the FBI about the [fur] issue but not sure which ones or even if e-mailing the FBI or police departments is such a good idea.”
Dickerson replied again to Lowell, briefly, on January 31, 2011. Lowell wrote back to Dickerson at length on February 11, 2011, sending a lengthy draft anti-fur law she had prepared. Lowell later complained to other correspondents that PETA was unresponsive to her.
According to the FBI affidavit, Lowell e-mailed to the Cleveland Heights Police Department on April 5, 2011, arguing that the fur trade is illegal and should become the subject of a police investigation.
Lowell may next have approached the Humane Society of the U.S. She later complained that HSUS also ignored her. But HSUS director of corporate communications Rachel Querry told ANIMALS 24-7 in 2012 that “We have no record of her being a supporter. Our Ohio state director, Karen Minton, did not know Lowell and could not recall having any direct contact with her.”
Israeli anti-fur activist responded
Lowell initiated her longest known correspondence with other animal advocates on June 1, 2011, emailing to International Anti-Fur Coalition founder Jane Halevy, of Israel. The FBI affidavit took note of that exchange, but Halevy, coordinating activities among dozens of organizations in dozens of nations around the world, replied only briefly to Lowell’s many long emails to her.
“I didn’t read all of her emails,” Halevy admitted to ANIMALS 24-7 on February 25, 2012. “I just read them one by one,” Halevy said, after ANIMALS 24-7 alerted her that Lowell had been arrested, “and I feel very ashamed, very bad and very frustrated. I am sure I could have convinced her to drop her terrible ideas.
“The worst worst worst of all,” Halevy said, “is that I found a key email of hers that I had never seen before, telling me all her crazy ideas. I am sure she expected an answer from me and maybe since I didn’t answer, she might have misinterpreted my silence. She wrote this key email as a reply to an email I sent to many activists about the launching of new anti-fur stickers,” to which Halevy received many automatically generated acknowledgements of receipts. Lowell’s e-mail was lost among them.
“I didn’t want to be like the others”
“I run many sites,” said Halevy, whose Facebook pages have more than 5,000 friends, “and get many emails, requests, questions––I really can’t read them all.”
Halevy answered Lowell, to the brief extent that she did, Halevy said, “because I could understand she was frustrated, disappointed, and I didn’t want to be like the others,” whom Lowell complained had not responded to her.
Lowell on August 12, 2011 asked Halevy “what exactly the Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act means.” Lowell said she was “thinking about organizing some protests, as well as at least one animal liberation event to liberate animals from at least one medical experimentation laboratory,” and was “hoping to do some economic sabotage.”
Halevy explained that as an Israeli, she knew little of U.S. law, and referred Lowell’s question to U.S. activist Rosa Close. Close did not respond to an inquiry from ANIMALS 24-7. Lowell did not mention Close in her subsequent correspondence.
The unread e-mail
Lowell transmitted the email that Halevy mistook for an automated response to her mailing about anti-fur stickers on October 19, 2011, eleven days before Lowell’s Facebook posting soliciting a contract killer came to the notice of the FBI.
Wrote Lowell, “I hope to hire a hit man or hit woman next week, the week after, or some time in January or February to kill someone who is wearing fur. I hope the hitman or hitwoman will kill the person wearing fur through one or several of the following methods–shooting (if they have their own gun and the bullets do not go through walls and the gun must be concealable and be able to put it into a pants holster or into a purse), strangulation using a rope, or stabbing using a sharp knife. I do not want the person to be burnt or for there to be arson or poisoning.
“I actually incourage [sic] the person I hire to leave evidence at the place where the person is killed and hope the person I hire loves animals as much as I do,” Lowell said.
“They should know how to use the above weapons in order to accurately kill the person who is wearing fur or at least leave the person who is wearing fur close to death.”
“I really thank God & the universe that nobody got hurt”
Lowell wrote to Halevy once more, on November 4, 2011, before focusing her correspondence on the FBI online covert employees. “I am prepared to take more risky actions with more possibly illegal actions,” Lowell wrote, this time offering no explicit details.
But Lowell described her sense of isolation, as a would-be activist whose activism was for unexplained reasons limited to two nights a week at the library computer.
“I do not have access to a computer at home nor do I have access to the internet at home,” Lowell wrote, “but somehow I do get youtube at home on the blueray dvd player which allows for me to get more information about all things animal rights and animal rights issues including advice from fellow animal rights activists.”
“I feel I missed an opportunity to help someone in need, an opportunity to save someone from very wrong thoughts and horrific ideas,” Halevy told ANIMALS 24-7. “If only I had seen her hit plan….I really thank God and the universe that nobody got hurt.”