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    Second person arrested in llama beatings

    Authorities say the 18-year-old suspect acknowledges taking part in the Sunday attack and implicates a friend.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 13, 2001

    EAST LAKE -- A second person was charged late Monday in the suspected golf-club beating that killed one pet llama and severely injured another.

    Robert B.
    Pettyjohn Jr.
    Robert B. Pettyjohn Jr., 18, who was arrested Sunday on unrelated charges, was being questioned about the recent burglary of a Tarpon Springs golf shop when, authorities said, he acknowledged taking part in the Sunday morning llama attack.

    He was being charged Monday night with one count of felony cruelty to animals. The attacks took place at a rural home a half-mile south of where Pettyjohn lives, at 594 Ranch Road, Pinellas sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita said.

    Pettyjohn, who also gave authorities a statement about the burglary, told detectives he didn't remember details about the llama beating because he had taken four Xanax pills, a prescription anti-depressant, and quickly drank nine beers, Tita said.

    Pettyjohn told detectives his friend, 17-year-old Brandon R. Eldred, also was involved in the beating, Tita said.

    Deputies had found Eldred of 1801 East Lake Road walking on Ranch Road with a bloody shirt and a broken golf club around dawn Sunday.

    [Courtesy of Susan Appenzeller]
    Willy Wonka, a 3-month-old llama who was attacked early Sunday morning, will lose an eye as a result of the attack.
    Tita said Eldred, who also was a suspect in the golf shop burglary, was charged with two counts of animal cruelty and one count of armed trespass. He was being held Monday at the Juvenile Detention Center.

    It was not clear whether the golf club believed used in the attack was taken during the Tarpon Springs burglary, Tita said.

    One of the llamas that was beaten, 3-month-old Willie Wonka, is expected to live. A family pet, the animal is scheduled to undergo surgery today to remove its left eye.

    "When you see an animal like that cruelly beaten where he was hit time and time again, you have to wonder what kind of person would do that," said Keith Appenzeller, whose family owned Willie Wonka and three other llamas.

    The other llama attacked, 4-year-old Monopoly, died Sunday afternoon on the way to a University of Florida animal hospital.

    Appenzeller, 48, found Willie Wonka lying in a pool of blood with a gouged eye and a cracked skull Sunday morning when he went to the end of his driveway to get his newspaper.

    At first, Appenzeller and his wife, Susan, thought Willie Wonka had gotten out of his fenced 1.5-acre pen and was hit by a car. The couple saw what looked to them like an 8-inch metal piece of car antenna.

    Appenzeller flagged down a nearby deputy who was investigating a neighbor's complaint of trespassers on his property to report the apparent hit-and-run of his family's pet.

    But the deputy told the couple that piece of metal, which had blood on it, was actually part of a golf club's shaft. He also said he had just encountered someone down the street carrying a broken golf club.

    "I can't tell you the feeling, like a brick had hit me," Mrs. Appenzeller said. "It's a really sick, overwhelming feeling."

    Deputies had come across Eldred walking on Ranch Road. When Eldred was taken to the Appenzellers' driveway and questioned, the 17-year-old became "hysterical" and denied knowing anything about the beating, according to his arrest report.

    Eldred told deputies that he was staying with Pettyjohn, who lived down the street.

    Before Appenzeller reported the llama beatings, deputies had found Pettyjohn walking on Ranch Road and questioned him about a suspected trespassing on a neighbor's lot, Tita said.

    Since Pettyjohn lived nearby, deputies let him go. But Pettyjohn was arrested Sunday afternoon on a charge of domestic simple assault and simple battery after getting in a fistfight with his brother-in-law.

    Pettyjohn's mother, Janet, said Monday afternoon that her son told her he was not involved in the llama beatings.

    "He's denying it," said Janet Pettyjohn, 55. "But I'm leaving this all up to the Sheriff's Office. I'll let them do their investigation. My husband and I tried to teach him to respect the tiniest of animals."

    Mrs. Pettyjohn said her son and Eldred were close friends who spent a lot of time together.

    Martin Mersereau, a cruelty case worker for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the case was disturbing.

    "People who abuse animals rarely do it once and almost never stop there," Mersereau said. "We fear for the communities where these crimes occur. If allegations are true, these are sick people."

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