Thursday, June 21, 2018
Public safety

Riverview man wanted in case of threats to Hernando County Animal Services

BROOKSVILLE — Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a Riverview man they say threatened to bomb Hernando County Animal Services and kill its employees.

Peter Dalessandro, who investigators say has a history of making threats in the defense of mistreated animals, made the anonymous calls Friday, one week after Animal Services staff members euthanized an 8-month-old pit bull mix named Zeus within minutes of when it had been turned over to the shelter.

Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said investigators traced the calls to 52-year-old Dalessandro's cell phone. After authorities left him messages requesting he contact them, Turner said, Dalessandro discarded that phone and got a new number, but never called them back.

Brooksville officers and Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies went to Dalessandro's home at 4422 Barnstead Drive, where they found his vehicle parked outside. Authorities banged on the door for hours, Turner said, but no one answered.

"I'm sure at some point he'll come out and be arrested," Turner said. "Or he'll turn himself in."

The warrant includes six felony counts of threatening to place or discharge a destructive device and five misdemeanor assault charges.

Dalessandro, who has no criminal history in Hernando County, was involved in another bizarre case 11 years ago.

A man in Burlington, Iowa, had been accused of animal cruelty, and his trial was being broadcast nationally on Court TV. Someone from Dalessandro's home, authorities say, made a series of phone calls threatening the defendant and his attorney, Michael Schillings.

Schillings taped one of the anonymous calls and presented it as evidence in the case, hoping to have the TV cameras removed from the courtroom.

"This apparently incited the suspect even more," a report said, "as he was watching the trial on TV and learned that his phone call had been tapped."

The suspect, investigators say, then began making harassing calls to the Burlington Police Department.

Hernando County Sheriff's Office detectives traced the call to the home where Dalessandro lived at the time, 360 Florian Way in Spring Hill.

No one was ever charged with a crime, possibly, Turner suspected, because Iowa authorities didn't intend to extradite.

In 1999, Dalessandro led an animal rights demonstration outside the Dade City police station. He and four others picketed the station over the Police Department's failure to arrest a suspect in a kitten-killing case.

Three years later, the then-social worker offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who killed a cat and its six kittens.

Dalessandro, Turner said, now lives in Riverview with his mother and, according to neighbors, rarely leaves his home.

Times files and researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or [email protected]

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