Deputies have arrested a Largo man in connection with the beating death of an opossum found strung to a power pole with a suicide note last week.
Deputies arrested Christopher M. Lownsbury, 21, on a felony animal cruelty charge Thursday. Lownsbury was being held at the Pinellas County Jail on Tuesday in lieu of $5,000 bail and could not be reached for comment.
A public defender entered a not guilty plea on his behalf Friday.
Pinellas sheriff's deputies have been investigating the case since a resident of the Lakeview Mobile Home Park found the opossum Sept. 9. The animal had been beaten to death and suffered a broken jaw, dislocated eye and broken leg.
The opossum was strung to a power pole with twine. Earphones were fitted over its head and a note attached to its body that read: "I'm suicidal so I hung myself b__."
One of the marsupial's babies, an inchlong, hairless newborn, was found clinging to the opossum's cold body. The baby suffered hypothermia and had to be euthanized, said Beth Lockwood, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Pinellas County.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and a private donor combined to offer a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.
The deputy who took the report returned to the mobile home park to talk to neighbors and witnesses, Sheriff's Office spokesman Mac McMullen said. She eventually developed Lownsbury as a suspect.
Lownsbury admitted to the deputy that he beat the animal to death with a stick, arrest reports state. No explanation for the beating was provided in the report.
Lownsbury is on probation for several burglary charges. He pleaded no contest in December.
Lockwood said she hopes Lownsbury receives a psychological evaluation. Animal abuse often is a precursor to other violence, she said.
"I'm a little surprised it's an adult," she said. "You just don't typically think adults would do something like that. It just doesn't make any sense."