Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A search warrant for narcotics leads to Largo man's arrest on suspicion of dogfighting

LARGO — Five pit bulls, some with scars on their faces and legs, were found without water in wooden crates in the back yard of a house near Largo. Investigators say the discovery of the dogs and a variety of dogfighting equipment led them to arrest a 39-year-old man Tuesday on a felony charge of dogfighting — a rare arrest in Pinellas County.

The dogfighting items were found at 11745 126th Ter. N in the unincorporated Baskins area when detectives searched the house for illegal drugs Monday night, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Detectives returned with a new warrant Tuesday morning.

Michael J. Hearns, 39, is charged with five counts of animal cruelty, three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and one count of possession of a structure for trafficking in cocaine.

Among the items found: a treadmill rigged with wooden boards on the sides to keep the dogs on the device. Sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said she was told that canines used in dogfighting are chained on those treadmills for one or two hours at a time.

Deputies also found a pen used for dogfighting as well as a book, Cajun Rules, which lists rules for dogfighting.

"I understand that there's some blood on some of these items," said Barreda, eyeing the equipment as investigators pulled it onto the lawn.

Dogfighting charges in Pinellas County are highly unusual, said Brent Bardell, director of humane care and facilities for SPCA Tampa Bay. He thinks dogfighting may be common in Pinellas, although he's not aware of any major arrests here. He's hoping news about this case will raise awareness.

Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett doesn't recall any prosecutions for dogfighting in the county in recent years, either. "Not to say there haven't been any in the distant past," he said. "But I don't remember any here."

At the scene of the investigation, many of Hearns' neighbors were reluctant to talk to reporters. But Cindy Brown, who lives a couple of streets away, was upset.

"It's so sad to know that kind of stuff would be happening in our neighborhood," said Brown, who has a pit bull of her own named Bootsie.

Johnny Watson, who lives down the street, was chatting with his neighbor, Yvonne Green, as investigators combed Hearns' home. They found it hard to believe that their neighbor would be involved in such a bloody sport. Green added that, if it was true, she was surprised he would be so brazen to do it in such a populated area.

"I don't think anybody would be so brave to do something right here," Green said.

Authorities haven't determined where the dogfighting took place, Barreda said, but a deputy told her that the equipment indicated it was possible that some of the fighting took place at the home.

A couple of weeks ago, deputies made drug-related arrests at a house nearby and found animals in that home, Barreda said. There were no animal cruelty or animal fighting charges then, but there were some associations between the two cases, she said.

Hearns, who also uses the last name Lang, has an arrest record that traces back to 1991. He has previously been arrested on charges of cocaine possession and driving with a suspended or revoked license, state records show.

On Tuesday night, he was being held in lieu of $182,500 bail at Pinellas County Jail.

Deputies say they found 2 ounces of crack cocaine at the house as well as three guns, one of which is stolen.

Early Tuesday, the five American pitbull terriers were under medical and behavioral evaluation, said the SPCA's Bardell.

After that, Bardell said, "We can evaluate them for adoption."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

A search warrant for narcotics leads to Largo man's arrest on suspicion of dogfighting 03/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 11:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)

    Golf

    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill

    National

    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.