When she opened a package to find a live tarantula, Karen Figueroa says she began crying hysterically.
By JAY CRIDLIN
Published July 25, 2003
TAMPA - There is nothing - nothing - more terrifying to Karen Figueroa than a spider.
She can't watch them on the Discovery Channel. She can't even bear the sight of a dead daddy longlegs.
So when she received a package at work on June 30, opened it and saw a live tarantula crawl out, her reaction was understandable.
"I totally freaked out," said Figueroa. "I was outside hysterically crying for about 30, 45 minutes before I could come back into the building."
Authorities say the spider was sent by Figueroa's ex-boyfriend, John A. Galarza, 37, who was indicted Wednesday on a federal charge of sending a poisonous spider through the mail with intent to kill or harm.
Galarza, who lives in Apollo Beach, pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate Thursday and was released on $20,000 bail. If convicted, he faces as much as 20 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000.
Galarza and his lawyer declined to comment Thursday.
County records show that up until May 8, Galarza was married to another woman. On Sept. 21, he was arrested on domestic violence charges involving his wife, but the case was dropped less than three weeks later. He filed for divorce on Jan. 28.
Figueroa said she dated Galarza for about a year before she broke up with him three months ago. The breakup did not go well, she said.
A few weeks passed between the breakup and June 30, when Figueroa received a package at work that appeared to be from an eyeglasses dealer.
When she opened up the eyeglasses case inside the package, out crawled a live tarantula.
"I knew it wasn't a joke," she said.
A co-worker called the Postal Inspection Service and Tampa Police Department.
The spider was caught and brought back to the postal inspector's office alive, though it died the next day.
The actual threat posed by a tarantula bite is minimal, according to spider experts. Skin irritation and eye problems can result if the spider is handled improperly, but deaths are exceedingly rare.