The murder of a celebrity rooster in a small city in Mississippi has sparked outrage, outpourings of adoration, promises of revenge, murals in memory of the animal – and a population in mourning.
The bird, named Carl, was a mainstay on the streets of Ocean Springs – a scenic city of 18,000 on Mississippi’s Gulf coast.
He was known to strut about town, spinning a regular route that involved a morning stop at the local bagel shop, sips of water at a few coffee shops and even a visit to classes at the fitness center.
The rooster was personable and friendly, approaching people and posing for photographs, and nestling down for naps on regular railing perches throughout town.
But Carl was snatched from his perch before being killed by a female corrections officer and later dumped in a parking lot. His body is still missing.
News of Carl’s death was met with an outpouring of public adoration perhaps unseen in the region since the death of Elvis. Wreaths of carnations were laid on perches where Carl liked to sleep, and by the doorways of shops he frequented. Children wrote letters of love to Carl and taped them in windows throughout the city, and a local artist began a mural in the rooster’s memory. Local businesses began making Carl t-shirts and car decals, donating the proceeds to local animal charities. A casket was designed for the bird and laid out in town, its emptiness a plea from the town for the return of the beloved bird’s remains.
Carl the rooster (above, center) astride one of his favorite perches in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. His murder shook the coastal city which is still in mourning
Carl was a common sight around downtown Ocean Springs. One of his favorite places to visit was the donut shop, where he would have some water and sometimes a bite to eat
Carl’s death was met with an outpouring of support from the community. Carnations and memorials were left at his favorite places to visit in town
A rooster-sized casket was laid out in town, complete with images of Carl and the message ‘legends never die’ written along its flanks
The casket remains empty, a call to the community from the community pleading for the return of Carl’s remains to Ocean Springs
Local artist Cali Rob (right) and Ocean Springs resident and Carl fan Craig Alan Raynor (left) in front of the mural Rob is painting in Carl’s memory. A local business allowed Rob to paint on its wall
Security footage implicated Kendra Shaffer, 35, a corrections officer at the ones County Juvenile Detention Center. She was filmed snatching Carl and dumping his body later
‘[Carl would] wake up and mosey around town and get a bagel at the bagel shop,’ Matt Stebly, an Ocean Springs tattoo artist, whose parlor Carl called home, told the Washington Post, ‘He had his rounds that he would visit every day.’
‘He was iconic,’ Stebly said, ‘Larger than life.’ But on a morning in late April, Carl the rooster’s crow was heard never more.
Stebly arrived at his shop on April 25 and saw no sign of Carl. When the chicken didn’t turn up for days the search was begun in earnest, and Stebly came across surveillance footage showing Carl being snatched from his perch at 3am on April 24 by a woman in the company of a gang of men.
The woman in the video was Kendra Shaffer, 35, a corrections officer at the Jones County Juvenile Detention Center – which is two hours away.
Footage from Biloxi, a city just west of Ocean Springs, showed Shaffer dumping Carl’s dead body in a parking lot about 15 minutes after the attack.
Carl’s cause of death is unclear, but Shaffer was issued a misdemeanor citation for animal cruelty, Captain Ryan LeMaire of the Ocean Springs Police Department told the Washington Post. She was also fired from her job at the detention center.
Security footage from April 24 showed a large group of people approaching Carl, and a woman snatching him up off a his sleeping perch. The woman was later identified as Shaffer
Separate footage showed Shaffer dumping Carl’s dead body in a parking lot in the neighboring city of Biloxi. His exact cause of death is unknown
Shaffer was handed a misdemeanor citation for animal cruelty, and was fired from her job at the detention center
About an hour after Carl’s death, footage shows a man collect Carl’s body and walk off after placing him in a plastic bag. The location of the remains are unknown, and Stebly has offered a reward for information leading to their return.
‘We were trying to plan a little second line for him,’ Stebly said, referring to a New Orleans-style musical parade, ‘I feel like it would be a little more special if we had his body.’
Why Shaffer did what she did to carl is not clear, but her actions and the loss of Carl have brought about a deluge of mixed reactions in Ocean Springs.
‘Carl was so much more than a rooster. He was an icon,’ local artist Cali Rob told WLOX as he brushed strokes on a mural he is painting downtown in memory of Carl, ‘He was a pillar of the community.’
Elsewhere in town memorials sprang up, with hand written cards and carnations being laid in the many perches and places Carl would frequent.
Reactions to Shaffer’s crime have been virulent.
Former Ocean Springs mayor Connie Moran wrote in a Facebook post that she felt Carl’s killer was evil.
‘[Carl] was a SENTIENT BEING who did absolutely nothing to provoke his demise. He was sleeping!’ She wrote, ‘I have to believe that most people are good, but it really only takes one evil person.’
Stebly vowed revenge while sharing a Carl themed tattoo he had designed.
‘I promise I will ruin the people that where involved.’ He wrote.
Rob said he did not feel that Shaffer’s loss of employment was enough compared to what she took from Carl.
‘Jobs come and go, but a life, we only get one run at this life, you know, his life was taken short.’
One of the many memorials laid out in Ocean Springs for Carl. Metal rooster statues are a popular feature in the tributes
Sharing a tattoo he had designed in Carl’s honor, the owner of the tattoo parlor Carl called home, Matt Stebly, vowed vengeance upon Carl’s killer
The Downtown Ocean Springs Facebook group posted a memorial to the rooster upon news of his death
In addition to the Carl mural, artist Cali Rob set to work illustrating Carl decals made from blank Post Office shipping labels
Carl themed memorabilia was made in Carl’s honor, including t-shirts, car decals, and this keychain made at a local business
Ocean Springs resident Ashley Peto designed these Carl car decals. Proceeds from the sales of the decals are going to a local animal charity
Hand written notes were posted on windows and doors throughout Ocean Springs, sending love and well wishes to the deceased bird
Memorials popped up in tribute to Carl throughout Ocean Springs, as the city of 18,000 mourned the loss of their hero
Carl (left) was always ready to pose for photos with people (right). He readily approached anyone and everyone, and was a friend to all