MOON LAKE — Martin Smith said he felt sick to his stomach as he walked upon the scene behind the mobile home. He picked up a shovel. He said he cried as he dug the shallow grave. Beside him on the leaves and dirt lay bodies of four tiny pit bull puppies, each barely the size of a grapefruit.
All four had been beaten to death.
Hard times had befallen Smith. The home at 12151 Catalona Ave. had fallen into disrepair, the floors falling in and the porch collapsing, according to a report filed with the Pasco County's Community Development Division. Smith's father, Timothy Smith, who owns the 1973 mobile home, told him he would have to move out.
Martin Smith, who is 25 and unemployed, was packing up Friday afternoon. He couldn't afford to keep the puppies.
He said his father offered a suggestion: "Why don't you take them in the woods and beat their heads in?"
Timothy Smith told the Tampa Bay Times he said no such thing. He said he suggested releasing the puppies into the woods, but he "never once suggested to beat them in the head."
Martin Smith later told Pasco sheriff's deputies he "didn't have the guts" to kill the dogs.
So his friend took care of it.
David Lee Thompson, 21, picked up a shovel and took the four puppies around the side of the mobile home and hit each one in the head until it was dead, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office report states.
"There," Thompson told Martin Smith, according to the report. "It's done."
"Well, then, I'll dig the hole," Martin Smith replied.
The four puppies were placed in the grave, 2 feet deep, and covered with leaves and a dog crate.
Timothy Smith, 60, who is disabled, said he would have stopped Thompson if he were in the back yard, but he was on another part of the property when the puppies were killed. He said he asked his son about the puppies and got the reply, "It doesn't matter now. They're gone."
Lori King, the woman dating Timothy Smith, said he came home crying. When he told her about the puppies, she contacted Pasco Animal Services. An animal control officer and Pasco sheriff's deputies arrived at the home about 5:30 p.m. Friday and found the dead puppies in their grave, the tip of a tail poking from the dirt. Their bodies were still covered with live fleas, the report said.
Thompson of Moon Lake, who is listed as unemployed, was arrested on a charge of animal cruelty. He remained Monday at the Land O'Lakes jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.
Sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said neither of the Smiths was arrested because they "are listed as witnesses in the case and appear not to have actually carried out killing the puppies."
He said the case will be reviewed by the State Attorney's Office.
The parents of the puppies are alive. The father, Cashew, has been taken to Pasco Animal Services. The mother, Priscilla, was staying Monday at King's home, but will be turned over to Pasco Animal Services with the hope of finding her a new home.