Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ventura police arrest man for torturing Bob the tortoise

(07-19) 15:58 PDT Ventura, Calif. (AP) --

An arrest was made Thursday in the vicious attack on Bob, a 42-pound pet tortoise who was slashed and stabbed after being stolen from the home of an autistic boy.

Police said the attacker tried to cut Bob out of his shell. His hind legs were badly cut, a toe was cut off, his neck was slashed and his shell was punctured with a sharp object. The animal also was thrown against a wall, police said.

Jose "Tony" Mosqueda, 18, of Ventura, was booked at the county jail for investigation of cruelty to animals and grand theft.

It is believed he acted alone, police said.

"It's a good feeling. It's kind of neat," Sgt. Jack Richards said. "It just really pulled at some heartstrings and it's good to have someone in custody."

Witnesses to the torture provided information that helped lead to the arrest, Richards said.

Two rewards totaling $3,500 had been offered for help with an arrest and missing tortoise fliers were posted throughout the area, but Richards said he didn't know if that contributed to the arrest.

The 25-year-old African spurred tortoise belongs to Dorothy and Bill Sullivan and is a special friend to their 6-year-old autistic son, who rarely spoke to people but chattered to the animal.

The tortoise was snatched from their yard on July 7, brutalized and dumped in brush behind an apartment complex.

An anonymous caller told the family where to find Bob.

Police declined to discuss a motive, but Richards said it didn't appear the attacker wanted to eat Bob.

Dorothy Sullivan said Thursday that she and her son danced with happiness when they heard of the arrest.

"This is wonderful news," she said.

The boy had not been sleeping well since the attack, she explained.

"His security fell apart," she said. "He was afraid that somebody was going to come and steal him and take him away and hurt him."

"Now he feels safe. Now he can go out and play," she said.

The family has installed security cameras and an alarm on the backyard fence so that Bob will be safer when he returns.

The tortoise was being treated at Turtle Dreams, a Montecito rehabilitation center. He remained in guarded condition and was being fed through a tube in his neck.

"He's getting more relaxed and coming out of his shell" more often, said Jeanie Vaughan, the center's owner. "If he continues without any infection, I think he's going to be fine."

Dorothy Sullivan said Bob did an amazing thing when she visited the center earlier in the week.

"He took his first steps," she said. "He brought his head completely out of his shell ... and then he struggled to his feet."

The tortoise collapsed but then managed to take eight steps.

"When he finished, he had a tear in his eye ... as did the rest of us," Sullivan said. "It was an excellent, great sign."

Bob's plight made headlines across the country and prompted a flood of calls from people wanting to help. Sullivan said she had created a huge display of cards and letters, including one from schoolchildren who sold lemonade to raise money to help pay Bob's vet bills.

"I'm still getting 25 calls a day from people all over the nation: New Jersey, Montana, Arizona. I can name almost every state," Richards said.

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