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Convicted in 2001 llama killing, Robert Pettyjohn II headed back to prison

TAMPA — Robert Bruce Pettyjohn II spent much of his 20s in prison for shooting two bulls and killing a llama, then getting in trouble again after he got out.

Now 29, the man involved in some of the Tampa Bay area's most notorious animal cruelty cases is headed back to prison for again violating probation.

Judge Daniel Perry on Friday reinstated the original 10-year prison sentence for Pettyjohn, who violated probation in June when he was arrested in St. Petersburg for public intoxication and resisting arrest without violence.

"I gave you every opportunity," the judge told Pettyjohn.

Perry agreed to give him credit for time already served. How much credit Pettyjohn will get, however, was unclear Friday. His lawyer, Stephen Maltezos, estimated the credit could range between three and eight years, depending how the court calculates it.

But that may not be it for Pettyjohn. One of his animal cruelty cases occurred in Pinellas County, and prosecutors there are also looking for prison time — five years — for violating his probation, according to Maltezos.

Pettyjohn had asked for Perry to consider an alternative to prison, "some kind of 'Scared Straight' or something."

"Judge, I'm at your mercy," Pettyjohn said. "I've done so much time."

In 2001, Pettyjohn, who was 19 at the time, received a 10-year sentence for shooting two bulls with bows and razor-tipped arrows in Hillsborough. As part of the sentence, Pettyjohn had to serve only three years, with the remainder suspended, provided he did not violate his probation.

Later that year, Pettyjohn pleaded guilty to cruelty charges in Pinellas County and received a five-year sentence. In that case, Pettyjohn and co-defendant Brandon Eldred were accused in the beating of two pet llamas with a golf club, sodomizing and killing the nursing mother and permanently disfiguring the baby.

For both the Hillsborough and Pinellas convictions, Pettyjohn was imprisoned for more than six years, from May 2002 to October 2008, state records show.

Just three days after he was released in 2008, he was re-arrested for failing to report to his probation office. He said then that he didn't realize he needed to check in with offices in both counties. Perry, also the judge at that time, dismissed the new charge after giving Pettyjohn a stern warning.

In August 2010, Pettyjohn tested positive for marijuana. He returned to prison in November 2010, records show, and was released this past February.

On Friday, prosecutor Christine Brown said Pettyjohn's probation officer hadn't busted him on other occasions. For instance, when the probation officer learned he was keeping a dog named Blaze, violating his probation terms that he not be around animals, she told him to get rid of it. He sent the dog to stay with his mother. Brown said her office had also learned Pettyjohn was trying to get puppies.

"I think he's demonstrated he thinks he can do what he wants," Brown told the judge.

For his part, Pettyjohn said he was tired, ready to move out of Florida and start someplace new.

"But it's like a revolving door," he said.

His lawyer, Maltezos, asked the judge to consider a sentence that focused more heavily on community service because Pettyjohn was not improving.

"Prison is for rehabilitation and reform," said Maltezos. "And that has not worked for Mr. Pettyjohn."

The judge said he didn't think the Legislature paid to build and operate prisons to reform people. Prisons are for punishment, he said, just before he ordered Pettyjohn to return to one.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374.

Convicted in 2001 llama killing, Robert Pettyjohn II headed back to prison 08/10/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 10, 2012 10:24pm]
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