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2 llamas beaten; teenager charged

One of the pets dies and the 3-month-old suffers serious injuries in an attack at an East Lake home.

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001


EAST LAKE -- Keith Appenzeller was starting his early-morning jog Sunday when he came across a bloody scene in his driveway.

His family's 3-month-old pet llama, Willie Wonka, was lying there in a pool of blood, severely beaten and with a gouged eye. Appenzeller then found another pet llama, 4-year-old Monopoly, lying beaten nearby.

"It's just absolutely terrible to find a pet like that," Appenzeller said.

Monopoly died hours later on the way to an animal hospital in Gainesville. Willie Wonka was still in poor condition late Sunday with a cracked skull and a broken eye socket.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arrested Brandon R. Eldred, 17, of 1801 East Lake Road on a felony count of cruelty to animals after deputies found him walking nearby, wearing a white shirt with bloody splatters and carrying the top part of a golf club. He was taken to the county's Juvenile Detention Center.

Appenzeller said the bottom portion of a golf club, broken into two parts, was found on his 5-acre property on Ranch Road. There were also signs that Willie Wonka had been dragged under the fence of its pen and that Monopoly had been chased down and beaten.

"They busted the club in several places," Appenzeller said.

Sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita said deputies were called to the area by a neighbor on Ranch Road who suspected there were trespassers on his property because his animals were spooked.

Deputies found a power drill and other tools lying on the ground at the neighbor's property. As deputies were investigating that call, Appenzeller flagged down Deputy Robert Loveland to report his injured llamas.

When deputies found Eldred, he admitted he was on Appenzeller's property but said he had only "teased the animals," Tita said. Eldred also told deputies that he was visiting a friend who lives on Ranch Road.

Tita said deputies suspect that others were involved in the beatings and that perhaps there also had been a burglary because of the tools that were found.

The investigation is continuing, Tita said.

Appenzeller, an engineer in Tampa, bought two pregnant llamas -- Monopoly and Shania -- a year ago as family pets. They both gave birth during the Thanksgiving week to Willie Wonka and Marshall. Marshall and Willie Wonka's mother, Shania, were not injured.

"They are just really big pets, very friendly and very intelligent," Appenzeller said.

Appenzeller said he took the animals to a University of Florida veterinary hospital. Doctors suspect that Monopoly died of its internal injuries. An autopsy will be performed.

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