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Man accused of setting fire to SUV with dogs inside

A Dunedin man faces animal cruelty charges in connection with a bizarre incident in which deputies say he showed up at his ex-girlfriend's Indian Rocks Beach home and set his SUV on fire with two dogs inside.

The two Labrador retrievers, Honey and Sweetie, died as a result of the injuries they suffered in the Jan. 24 blaze.

That day, John A. Paulette III, 41, of 2535 Marquis Drive put the dogs and four propane tanks in his Ford Explorer and drove to his ex-girlfriend's home, Pinellas County sheriff's deputies say.

The ex-girlfriend called authorities about 7 a.m. because Paulette had parked in the driveway and refused to leave, according to a sheriff's report.

As deputies tried to stop him, Paulette poured gasoline on himself and his vehicle, officials said. He warned deputies to step back because there would be an explosion. Then he set himself on fire inside the car.

Paulette got out of the vehicle through the back window. His dogs were trapped inside, the report said.

Once outside the vehicle, Paulette fought to get back to his pets.

"He then began to yell that he needed to get his dogs out and began to beat on the rear window," Deputy Jerome Clark wrote in a report.

He said something along the lines of "Save my dogs, get my dogs!" according to Deputy Chris Kohmann.

Deputies told him to get away from the car, but he would not. Fearing for Paulette's safety, the deputies shot Paulette in the back with a Taser. The hit was ineffective and Paulette continued "yelling and jumping uncontrollably on the back of the SUV where small explosions were coming from," Kohmann's report said.

Deputies managed to tackle Paulette, handcuff him and drag him to safety.

Sweetie was killed in the blaze. Honey died shortly after.

Inside the SUV, deputies found the four propane tanks along with a black wallet containing two credit cards and $1,483 in cash.

Sheriff's officials said Paulette started the fire to get back at his ex-girlfriend.

Paulette, who was treated for burns at Tampa General Hospital, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail late Wednesday. In addition to the animal cruelty charges — which each carry up to five years in prison — Paulette is also charged with a misdemeanor count of culpable negligence for the minor injuries suffered by Clark, the deputy.

He was being held without bail because he also is accused of violating his probation on previous charges of possession of a controlled substance and trafficking in GHB.

Paulette turned down a request for an interview in jail Thursday.

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Man accused of setting fire to SUV with dogs inside 04/17/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 3:33pm]

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