TAMPA — Two weeks after a cat was found riddled with BBs, locked in a kitty carrier and left to drown in McKay Bay, authorities arrested a 19-year-old Town 'N Country man they say is responsible.
Giovanni Estrada, who lives on Parsons Street, was charged with two counts of animal cruelty and released from a Hillsborough County jail Friday on $4,000 bail.
The cat's former owner, 26-year-old Mildred Marie Krack, also known as Missy, was questioned but has not been charged.
"We're not done with her yet," said Pam Perry, Hillsborough County Animal Services' investigations manager.
The relationship between Estrada and Krack is unclear.
Authorities pinpointed the two after following several tips, said Dennis McCullough, operations manager of Animal Services.
In addition, conversations on their Facebook pages confirmed that they were involved. Those pages apparently have been deleted or made private.
McCullough said questioning lasted from 4 p.m. Thursday until an arrest was finally made around midnight.
He said both Estrada and Krack had been questioned in the matter once before, but he would not discuss what they told investigators.
After the incident made headlines, donations for reward money poured in.
The latest figure: almost $12,000. That's the largest reward ever offered by Animal Services in the agency's history, officials said.
Because multiple tips lead to the suspect, the money could go to multiple people, said Animal Services director Bill Armstrong. But the award won't be released until a conviction is made.
Lovey, the black-and-white cat, was adopted by an Animal Services veterinarian and is still being treated for her injuries, but she's doing remarkably well, said Perry, the investigator.
"She hasn't used up her nine lives yet."
Lovey was found in the bay Sept. 1 by a passer-by who heard gurgling noises coming from the water. The pellet-ridden cat was locked inside a crate that was decorated with permanent marker and labeled "Est. 2010 Kitty Penitentiary." There were 20 tally marks on a section of the crate under the title "CONVICTIONS." On the front left corner, a warden is listed: "Missy."
"Make no mistake. This was a crime of anger," said Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan, speculating that the abuse was some "retribution for the misdeeds of the pet."
Ryan said Krack has no other pets. She has never been arrested in Florida before, records show.
A woman who answered the door at Krack's last known address declined to comment.
Reached by phone in Volusia County, Krack's aunt, Susan Krack, was shocked to hear the news.
"She's an animal lover," Krack said of her niece. "She's never without a pet."
Susan Krack said Missy Krack has owned dogs, cats, fish and turtles, and she never saw her act anything but lovingly toward them.
She described her niece as "quite childlike." Though 26 years old, Missy still acts like she's 12, Susan Krack said. Not in a bad way, she said, "just her usual silly self."
She said Missy's mother died in 2003. Her father is still alive, but she moved out of his house a few years back. She has three brothers, Susan said.
But Susan Krack said it's been nearly a year since she heard from Missy, and she has no idea what the young woman is up to these days.
The aunt said she often wonders why Missy dropped contact, but she figures "she just wants to go her own way."
Susan Krack said she didn't know any of her niece's friends.
Estrada had no prior arrests in Florida, according to the state Department of Law Enforcement.
McCullough, of Animal Services, said cruelty to animals is often a precursor to violence toward people.
"This is a warning sign. We take it very seriously," he said.
According to Estrada's MySpace page, which is titled "In the Shadow of Death," he was a student at Alonso Senior High School from 2005 to 2009. School district officials wouldn't confirm that, however.
No one answered the door to Estrada's address Friday afternoon, but neighbors said residents of that house often complained about animals in the neighborhood. One woman said Estrada often carried a toy gun back and forth from his truck.
"He was always shooting," said Daonile Aventurado, who lives next door. "I thought he was playing."
Her young neighbor shot at birds, and she once watched him shooting at a peacock in his back yard.
"Pack, pack, pack," she said, imitating the noise of the shots.
Times staff writers Justin George and Danny Valentine and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813)661-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.