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Sunday, May 27, 2012County: Orange
Charges: Felony CTA
Alleged: Michael Dublin
Three young men are charged with torturing and killing endangered tortoises last weekend in Orange County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Michael Dublin, 20, of Jacksonville; Dalton Bothwell, 19, and a 17-year-old boy, both of Middleburg, are charged with killing and wounding a threatened species and felony cruelty to animals. The charges are third-degree felonies, and each carries a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.
Wildlife officers say the trio ran over two gopher tortoises and slammed them into the ground "just to see what would happen," while in the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area last month.
The tortoises were still alive when officers say the suspects picked them up and "intentionally slammed them violently to the ground," according to a news release.
Officers were patrolling the wildlife area around 2 p.m. May 27 when they found a large, injured tortoise in the roadway.
"Its upper and lower shells were cracked open, and internal organs were protruding from its sides. There was a large amount of blood on the road and the tortoise was barely alive," the news release said. "Nearby was another, smaller tortoise. It too had a cracked shell and was surrounded by a pool of blood."
The investigation showed Dublin intentionally hit the tortoises with his vehicle, according to spokeswoman Joy Hill. The smaller tortoise was hit first and left in the roadway to die.
The trio "messed around" in the wildlife area and hours later hit the larger tortoise as they left the area.
Officers said they got out of the vehicle, picked up the large tortoise and slammed it on the ground, causing more injuries.
Afterward, they found the first, smaller tortoise that had been run over earlier that day and discovered it was injured but still alive. They slammed it on the ground, officers said.
"They made no attempt to render aid or take the animals to a vet," Officer Steve McDaniel said in a news release. "They said they simply wanted to 'see what would happen if we dropped it.'
"I just don't understand how and why people can do things like this," he said.
Both animals later died.
Dublin and Bothwell were transported to the Orange County Jail; the juvenile to the Orange County Juvenile Assessment Center.
Officers encourage anyone with information about wildlife, fish and boating violations, to call the FWC's 24-hour toll-free Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Tipsters can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.
- Orlando Sentinel - June 8, 2012
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