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Tarpon Springs man who won't leash dog makes gun threats on 'Inside Edition'

TARPON SPRINGS — Robert Wirth Jr. has threatened to kill his neighbors if he loses his home.

Thursday, he went on national TV and made similar threats and showed off his gun collection.

For six years, he has been embroiled in a foreclosure suit that stemmed from a fine for walking his dog, Cole, without a leash — a violation of the rules of the River Watch Homeowners Association.

Wirth, who claimed his court battle cost him $150,000, said he'll go to drastic lengths to save his home.

"I'm going to use deadly force against board members, and I have the guns to do it," Wirth, 52, told Inside Edition, according to the show's Web site.

Last month, he also told the St. Petersburg Times he would shoot and kill one of the board members if things didn't go his way.

Wirth's comments were reported to the Tarpon Springs Police Department, which followed up, and said the threat didn't appear imminent then.

Peter Conner, the husband of one of the board members, said Wirth "should be taken seriously."

"The police should really look into this guy before he does harm someone or himself," Conner, 51, said.

Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Robert Faugno said the department has received several calls about Wirth's appearance on the show and that there is an active investigation involving Wirth.

In certain cases, he said, it is a crime to make such threats.

"We'll make a determination in conjunction with the prosecutor's office," Faugno said.

Wirth would not talk about his actions or comments on the show. He said he didn't like the focus of the Times' previous article.

"I think you really did a number on me," Wirth said.

The couple moved into the community about a decade ago. Their case stems from a violation of the homeowners association rules, which say, "A dog must be kept on a leash at all times when outside."

Wirth claims many of his neighbors violate the rule, especially since it's worded so broadly.

At least 10 times from October 2001 through December 2002, the association informed Wirth and his wife that they should not walk their dog without a leash, court documents show. Wirth continued to do so. In January 2003, the association fined Wirth and his wife, Sandra L. Blaker, $1,000. The association filed a foreclosure suit three months later to collect the debt.

The couple didn't pay. Wirth continued to walk his Labrador without a leash.

In January 2008, Circuit Judge Bruce Boyer ruled in favor of the homeowners association, saying it had the right to foreclose on the home, which is owned by Blaker and has a market value of about $380,000.

Boyer said that as far as the association knew, others who received violation notices for similar infractions came into compliance. Trial testimony also showed Wirth was "the most flagrant and continual violator" of the restriction, he said.

The next month, the couple appealed the ruling to the state 2nd District Court of Appeal and a decision is pending.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Fast facts

To learn more

To check out Inside Edition's report about Robert Wirth Jr., visit insideedition.com. Use the "more" button at the bottom of the page to scroll to the story.

Tarpon Springs man who won't leash dog makes gun threats on 'Inside Edition' 05/29/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 29, 2009 7:57pm]
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