Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Charges dropped in Hernando animal services bomb threat case

BROOKSVILLE — The evidence pointed to Peter Dalessandro as the man who called Hernando County Animal Services and threatened to bomb the building and kill its employees.

Phone records showed the calls made in April came from a cellphone account in Dalessandro's name, and from an area near where the 52-year-old Riverview resident lives.

But it wasn't enough.

Assistant State Attorney Rob Lewis opted this week to drop all 11 of the charges against Dalessandro. There was not enough evidence, Lewis said, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Dalessandro made the calls and not some other man using his phone.

"There's an awful lot of smoke there," Lewis said. "Do I think it was him? Absolutely. The problem is I can't prosecute based on what I think or the court of public opinion."

The calls came in on April 20, one week after animal services staff members euthanized an 8-month-old pit bull mix named Zeus, minutes after the dog had been turned over to the shelter to be put up for adoption.

Brooksville police traced the calls to Dalessandro's phone and sought a warrant for his arrest. He was charged with six felony counts of threatening to place or discharge a destructive device and five misdemeanor assault charges, and later turned himself in to Hillsborough County deputies.

An analysis by experts that compared the caller's voice to recordings of Dalessandro's voice during interviews with investigators proved inconclusive, Lewis said.

"That's a pretty big thing," said Dalessandro's attorney, Michael Butash, who praised Lewis for making the right call.

"It may upset people because of the type of charge. But just because you're arrested doesn't mean you're guilty, and a lot of people lose sight of that," Butash said.

Dalessandro's history, which include a connection to another threat case, also raised the suspicions of investigators.

Eleven years ago, a man in Burlington, Iowa, had been accused of animal cruelty, and his trial was being broadcast nationally on Court TV. Someone from Dalessandro's home, authorities say, made a series of phone calls threatening the defendant and his attorney, Michael Schillings.

Schillings taped one of the anonymous calls and presented it as evidence in the case, hoping to have the TV cameras removed from the courtroom.

The suspect, investigators say, then began making harassing calls to the Burlington Police Department. Hernando County Sheriff's Office detectives traced the call to the home where Dalessandro lived at the time, on Florian Way in Spring Hill. No one was ever charged with a crime.

In 1999, Dalessandro led an animal rights demonstration outside the Dade City police station. He and four others picketed the station over the Police Department's failure to arrest a suspect in a kitten-killing case.

Three years later, the then-social worker offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who killed a cat and its six kittens.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]

Comments
The Bucsí problem isnít how they finish; itís how they start

The Bucsí problem isnít how they finish; itís how they start

For the second straight week, the Buccaneers had the ball in the final minutes of a tie game.For the second straight week, they could not finish.As disappointing as that might be, they have a larger problem, and one that has existed all season: The B...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Lightning opens road trip with shutout of Blues

Lightning opens road trip with shutout of Blues

ST. LOUIS ó This showdown was supposed to be about the best team in the East versus the best in the West. In reality, the Lightningís 3-0 win over the Blues on Tuesday night pretty much came down to this:Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies ...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

Lottery resultsLottery numbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Tues., Dec. 12, midday:90 578 4984e_SRit30459Tues., Dec. 12, evening:85 659 2558e_SRit95745Fantasy 5Tue...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 12

Tuesdayís scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 5, Tarpon Springs 0Palm Harbor U. 8, Alonso 0Boys soccerShorecrest 2, Indian Rocks Chr. 0Palm Harbor U. 3, Alonso 0Girls basketballNortheast 65, Dixie Hollins 25...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Defendant asks jurors: Do I look like Charles Manson?

Defendant asks jurors: Do I look like Charles Manson?

LARGO ó Daniel Richards, on trial in the murder of his 83-year-old mother, began his own criminal defense on Tuesday by asking a few questions to the pool of prospective jurors."If you were accused of killing your mother, would you want to represent ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Career Q&A: Two bosses who donít care for each other

Career Q&A: Two bosses who donít care for each other

Q: I seem to be caught between two high-level managers who really donít like each other. One is a director, the other is a vice president, and I am an assistant to both. Whenever the director stops by my desk to chat, she makes critical remarks about...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete losing two assistant police chiefs; one will join Rays

St. Pete losing two assistant police chiefs; one will join Rays

ST. PETERSBURG ó Two assistant police chiefs are stepping down next month, leaving two of the three second-in-command jobs vacant at the St. Petersburg Police Department.Assistant Chief Jim Previtera announced this week that he will resign from the d...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Winter meetings journal: Rays add more infield depth, claim it isnít prelude to a trade

LAKE BUENA VISTA ó The Rays on Tuesday adding their third infielder in the past two weeks would sure look like a precursor to trading front-liners such as 3B Evan Longoria or 2B Brad Miller.But GM Erik Neander insisted that was not the case and that ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Updated: 2 hours ago
GMs-turned-pundits believe now may be the time for Rays to sell

GMs-turned-pundits believe now may be the time for Rays to sell

LAKE BUENA VISTA ó The Rays have been doing a lot of talking, making another small deal Tuesday while still working toward bigger ones of a still-being-determined degree.And there have been a lot of baseball people at the winter meetings talking abou...
Updated: 2 hours ago