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Llama case defendant eligible for aid

A ruling means Pinellas will pick up part of the pretrial fees for the 18-year-old defendant, whose parents are doctors.

Taxpayers will pay some pretrial costs for Robert B. Pettyjohn II, the East Lake man accused in February's golf-club beating of two pet llamas.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Richard Luce found Pettyjohn to be partly indigent after the 18-year-old testified Thursday that he owned no assets. The ruling opened the door for the county to pay some of Pettyjohn's court-related expenses other than the cost of hiring his attorney, Christie Pardo of Tampa. Pardo said those costs will be about $1,000.

Prosecutor Bill Burgess said at the hearing that investigators have found that Pettyjohn has scuba gear and a variety of weapons, including a throwing star, spear gun and a blowgun at his parents' home in East Lake. But Pettyjohn said those items were purchased by his parents, who are doctors.

"I still can't sell their stuff," Pettyjohn said.

When asked about his assets, Pettyjohn told the judge that he did not own property, stocks, bonds, and did not have a savings account. He also answered that he did not own an automobile.

But in a financial affidavit that Pettyjohn signed Feb. 19, he listed his weekly income as $350 but did not disclose the source and also lists a 1992 Jeep Cherokee valued at $6,000 as an asset. That affidavit, however, was not mentioned during Thursday's hearing.

Pettyjohn and his friend, 17-year-old Brandon R. Eldred of East Lake, face animal cruelty and trespassing charges and are accused of gouging the eye out of a 3-month-old llama and sodomizing an adult llama, which later died. Eldred and Pettyjohn also face charges in Hillsborough County in connection with the killing of a bull and wounding of another in January.

Eldred has been charged with felony armed trespass and felony cruelty to animals in the slashing of a third llama, 3-year-old Sir Lancelot, with a titanium meat cleaver on Jan. 30.

Pettyjohn also faces a grand theft auto charge and two grand theft charges. Prosecutors say they plan to drop two other charges, for simple battery and simple assault, filed as a result of a domestic dispute.

_ Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or