© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2002
The 3-month-old llama was the first to be beaten. Its mother was attacked only after coming to her offspring's cries of distress.
That is how animal abuse suspect Brandon Eldred described a Feb. 11 attack on two pet llamas in East Lake, according to investigative records made public Friday.
Eldred, now 18, told Pinellas County sheriff's detectives that he was "very, very intoxicated" from beer, marijuana and Xanax pills, but he and codefendant Robert "Bobby" Pettyjohn II managed to climb into a llama pen on Ranch Road early in the morning.
"Brandon then states that he saw Bobby in the moonlight grab a very small llama and began physically beating it with his hands, feet, knees and a golf club that he had in his hand," according to a detective's summary of the interview.
". . . As Bobby Pettyjohn was attacking this small animal he noticed that a very large animal was attempting to get to . . . the baby, who was making squealing and yelping noises," the report said.
That's when, Eldred told investigators, he hit the mother, a 4-year-old named Monopoly, over the head with a golf club. Then he and Pettyjohn both attacked the larger animal, the report said. Eldred said he left as Pettyjohn continued the attack, and that Pettyjohn cursed him when he wouldn't go back.
Monopoly, beaten and sodomized, died. The younger llama, Willie Wonka, survived with an eye gouged out.
Both Eldred and Pettyjohn, 19, face animal cruelty charges as a result of the Feb. 11 incident.
The interview summary was among more than 700 pages of investigative reports, court pleadings and other documents released in response to a public records request to prosecutors.
Friday evening, Pettyjohn's defense attorney said he was not ready to discuss the Pinellas case in detail, but suggested that Eldred's statements that Pettyjohn began the beatings were self-serving.
"Sure, that's in his best interest to say that," said attorney Chip Purcell of Tampa. "Why wouldn't he say that?"
Although most statements that Pettyjohn or Eldred made about the incident were blanked out of the documents, the records add some detail to the animal abuse allegations filed against Pettyjohn and Eldred in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
They also round out the reputation the young men had in East Lake.
Among other things, the records indicate that acquaintances of Pettyjohn told investigators that they had seen him harm animals or heard him talk about it.
One acquaintance, 20-year-old David Gary Bowers, said in a sworn statement that Pettyjohn would shoot squirrels with a BB gun then "cut their tails off and he would pin them to a wall in their garage." Once, Bowers said, Pettyjohn told him he wanted to go to a nearby mansion being built by former NBA player Matt Geiger and shoot Geiger's pet buffalo with a bow and arrow.
Another acquaintance, Alexander Gregg, 19, told investigators that he assumed Pettyjohn had attacked the llamas after reading that Willie Wonka's eye was gouged out. Popping out someone's eye is something that Pettyjohn had discussed before, he said.
Gregg said he told Pettyjohn, "I know you. I said, you always talked about that."
In response, he said, Pettyjohn laughed.
Purcell said he couldn't respond to such statements, but suggested that one of the activities that acquaintances described isn't that unusual.
"People hunt squirrels," he said. "I don't know what they're saying. I don't know the context of their statements and I haven't taken their depositions."
The records released Friday also included 50 minutes of excerpts from videotaped conversations between Pettyjohn and visiting relatives or friends at the Pinellas County Jail.
In the conversations, recorded between March 23 and April 15, Pettyjohn repeatedly doubted that the authorities had any evidence against him and said he would not accept a plea deal.
"I know I ain't facing no real time," he told a friend on April 15. "That's the reason why I'm all right. You can't tell the innocent he's guilty. You know what I'm saying? So I ain't worried about s---. It's just the waiting process."
Discussing the prospect that he would be charged with killing a bull in northwest Hillsborough County, Pettyjohn said, "they ain't got no witnesses. I ain't signed nothing, but I spoke my piece . . . but they kind of put words in my mouth. I told them what I knew, but they ask me again, f--- them."
Pettyjohn has since pleaded guilty to killing the bull. He is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. Prosecutors have demanded at least 5 years in prison. Purcell has requested probation.
The same day, Pettyjohn's mother, Dr. Janet Pettyjohn, suggested one alternative.
"Well, if you want, I could ask them to stick you in a boot camp," she said. When he didn't respond immediately, she said, "No, huh? Forget that, huh?"
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Pettyjohn asked her. "Why do you keep thinking I'm guilty and need a punishment? All right? I don't need s---. It's time served, over and out. Let me get out."
The next day, Pettyjohn's mother seemed to joke with her son about his release.
"You'll be coming back to Ranch Road," she said. "You'll be able to terrorize the neighbors for a while."
She laughed and added that he could "walk up and down the street (and say) "Hi . . . I'm home.' "
A few minutes later, she questioned the case against Pettyjohn.
"There's a lot of stuff in there that can't be true and is impossible to be true," she said. ". . . A lot of people are exaggerating or making up stuff."
Janet Pettyjohn declined through her son's attorney to discuss those remarks Friday evening. The Pettyjohn family has since sold the house on Ranch Road and moved.
In other videotaped conversations, Pettyjohn complained of being depressed and said others at the jail made animal noises when he walked by. He also repeatedly said he knew who had talked to detectives.
Those people "better never come by me again," he said. The excerpts do not, however, include any threats, and at one point Pettyjohn said he planned to take a different approach to life.
"I'll be practicing the word of the Bible," he said. "I'm a changed man. Everyone is taking my kindness for weakness."
- Staff writer Richard Danielson can be reached at (727) 445-4194 or Danielson@sptimes.com.