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    Suspect in llama beatings to be charged as adult

    "We plan to aggressively prosecute'' the cruelty case against him and an 18-year-old, a prosecutor says.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 2001

    The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office plans to prosecute as an adult the younger of the two East Lake residents charged with beating two pet llamas.

    "We plan to aggressively prosecute these two as adults -- aggressively," Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said. "The nature of the behavior in this type of case would suggest that somebody needs some psychiatric treatment."

    Brandon R. Eldred, 17, was charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty and one count of armed trespass in a Feb. 11 attack that killed a 4-year-old llama and severely injured a 3-month-old llama.

    Eldred's friend, 18-year-old Robert B. Pettyjohn II, faces one count of felony cruelty to animals, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, and three charges unrelated to the attack.

    Since 1992, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has encountered Pettyjohn, the son of Pinellas County EMS medical director Dr. Bruce Pettyjohn, 15 times. Robert Pettyjohn was in jail Monday being held in lieu of $30,000 bail.

    "I do understand that he has had some contact with the system in the past," Bartlett said. "There could be factors that exist in his background that suggest we will aggressively pursue a stern sentence in his case."

    Since the attack, which left the 3-month-old, Willie Wonka, with a gouged eye and a cracked skull, prosecutors have received a "tremendous amount of mail" from people demanding stiff punishment for whomever committed the attack, Bartlett said.

    The prosecutor's office isn't the only one receiving appeals from animal lovers.

    The Humane Society of North Pinellas got more than 50 calls on the day after the attack, said Rick Chaboudy, the Humane Society's executive director. Keith and Susan Appenzeller, who own the two llamas that were beaten and two others that were uninjured, have received about 100 calls and 20 to 25 cards from people offering condolences and money to help pay for Willie Wonka's medical bill and wanting to know what they can do to help, said Susan Appenzeller.

    The Appenzellers' telephone number is unlisted, so those calls have been going to relatives who are listed in the phone book.

    It's important for prosecutors to know that they need to treat these cases seriously and not dismiss them as pranks, said Heather Deeley, spokeswoman for the Pembroke Pines-based Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, which has sent a letter to the State Attorney's Office.

    "If you look at all the high-profile serial killers, a lot of them started out hurting animals, mutilating them, and that was an early sign," Deeley said. "There is so much evidence that animal abuse leads to human abuse. I think we need to take a look at this and treat it more seriously."

    Chaboudy said the attack is alarming because llamas are docile creatures that "are not going to attack you and they are not going to appear aggressive."

    "If somebody is capable of doing this to an animal as gentle as a llama, they can do it to anyone at any age and at any time," Chaboudy said.

    Deeley said animal abuse cases often involve pet owners abusing their pets. The llama beating is unusual because the two charged had no reason to have any contact with the llamas.

    "I just think it is really strange that they would commit this really vile act of cruelty against animals that were minding their own business," Deeley said. "If they are able to do that to a defenseless animal that they don't have contact with, what are they going to do when they get mad at a sibling or someone else?"

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