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Teenage girl pleads guilty to animal cruelty

A judge orders the 15-year-old accused of burying a dog alive to volunteer in an animal shelter.

The 15-year-old girl accused of burying a neighbor's dog alive last month in Homosassa pleaded guilty in juvenile court Tuesday to one count of animal cruelty.

Citrus County Circuit Judge Patricia Thomas withheld adjudication in the case, ordering the girl to perform 75 hours of community service at an animal shelter. The girl, whose name is being withheld because of her age, must also serve an indefinite period of probation and was ordered to undergo counseling and submit to random drug screenings.

The girl was accused of burying a terrier and dachshund-mix, named Tippy, Aug. 9. She told investigators with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office that the dog was harassing pet rabbits while running loose in the Whispering Pines mobile home park on U.S. 19 in Homosassa.

Citrus County animal control workers unearthed the dog in a shallow grave near the mobile home park Aug. 10. A necropsy performed by a local veterinarian was inconclusive about the cause of death, and it has remained unclear whether the dog was struck with a blunt object before it was buried.

No testimony was given during Tuesday's court hearing.

Tippy's owner initially claimed that the girl and a friend were paid by another adult neighbor to kill the animal, but that charge was not substantiated. Nor was the other girl charged.

The girl who was charged now lives with an aunt in Hernando County. She was ordered to volunteer for community service at an animal shelter there. Her probation, under which she must observe a curfew defined by her aunt, will last until she has completed her community service and has been cleared from counseling.

In other news:

+ Jonathan Tuten may have injured his hand when he punched a wall during a courtroom recess Monday, but it doesn't appear he broke any bones.

"It's a little sore, but it's not broken to the best of our knowledge," said David Eads, warden at the Citrus County Detention Facility.

Tuten was standing trial Monday on charges of burglary while armed and grand theft when he allegedly punched a wall during a recess while in a courthouse holding cell. He returned to the courtroom dabbing tears in his eyes and bailiffs thought he might have broken bones in the hand.

Tuten was taken to the jail for an X-ray. Facing a potential delay of hours to have the hand checked, Circuit Judge Barbara Gurrola declared a mistrial. The trial will be rescheduled.