Bestiality crimes targeted by FBI reporting

 As Salvador Rendon was being arraigned last year on charges he had engaged for years in sexual intercourse with dogs, animal-rights activists descended on Warren, Ohio, to make their case: The state needed an anti-bestiality law.

The group had endured years of chiding: giggles about farm animals, “Deliverance” jokes, barks during a legislative hearing, questions of, “If the animal’s not injured, what’s the harm?”

But the Warren case was changing things.

Rendon was accused of having intercourse with two dogs — a male and a female boxer that belonged to his daughter — at least 10 times over a six-year period. Police told a local television station they’d “never seen a case like this one.” The judge called Rendon’s actions “despicable and highly disturbing.”

But, in a state where bestiality wasn’t a crime, authorities were limited to charging Rendon with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, and only after proving he had caused physical harm to an animal. Rendon spent 30 days in jail and remains on five years’ probation.

The case prompted Warren to pass Ohio’s first local bestiality ban, with tougher penalties and no requirement to prove physical harm, allowing investigators to rely on witness testimony and forensic evidence. It also helped pass a statewide anti-bestiality law effective this month.

Eight states and the District of Columbia still lack anti-bestiality laws. Some states inadvertently lifted earlier prohibitions on human-animal sex when they were updating their laws to remove sodomy as a crime.

The Humane Society of the United States led the lobbying effort to outlaw bestiality, but a much larger coalition, including domestic violence shelters, conservative Christians, law enforcers and psychologists, got behind the law this time.

“We were able to explain that this is not just an animal issue,” said Corey Roscoe, the society’s Ohio state director. “This did have ramifications for human violence. Sexually deviant acts are a red flag to other acts of sexual violence.”

Since 2005, arrests for animal sex abuse and exploitation in the U.S. have risen dramatically. The number of arrests in 2014 was more than double the total number of arrests in the 30 years between 1970 and 2000.

Jenny Edwards, a criminologist in Washington who studies the issue, said the rise has been driven by the internet.

Online forums that exist behind powerful firewalls allow like-minded people to communicate and share animals for breeding and sexual experiences.

“It’s been great for deviants,” Edwards said.

A decade of research by Edwards also shows links between those who abuse animals and those who abuse other vulnerable groups, including children, women and other family members.

Animals involved are mostly horses, large dogs and sometimes deer. Roscoe said large animals are targeted in part because physical harm is more difficult to prove if perpetrators are caught. Psychologists have testified animals suffer psychological effects, including depression, anxiety and aggression.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation singled out animal cruelty offenses in its national crime statistics for the first time last year, in an effort to begin to definitively quantify the problem.

Edwards said such crimes are difficult to track, because the animals involved are often shuffled off to shelters without being tested for abuse, because police departments are focused on human crimes, and because veterinarians often don’t know what to look for. She advises using human rape kits.

Stigma remains an obstacle.

Though she supported the vote, Warren City Council member Helen Rucker, a Democrat, raised concern that passing the state’s first law would suggest the city had a widespread problem. Until the latest bill, championed by a pair of Republican state senators, Ohio legislators hesitated to put their names on proposed bestiality bills, seeing the issue as a punch line advanced by some overly zealous animal lovers.

When Edwards called a North Carolina police department to report a bestiality case she’d uncovered, a detective put her on speaker phone so he and his colleagues could laugh.

“That’s a lot of what my work is focused on, trying to remove that idea,” she said. “It’s not a joke. It’s far more common than people realize it is, and far more sinister than people realize it is.”

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Robbers take Franklin Park area mailbox keys

A postal worker was robbed at gunpoint Friday in Fort Lauderdale, a U.S. Postal Service representative said.

The robbery was reported in the 2300 block of Northwest Seventh Court.

Postal police said the letter carrier was on her break at an apartment complex at Northwest Seventh Court near 22nd Road, in the Franklin Park area, when two men approached her, demanding her keys.

Police said one was wearing a mask and had a gun.

Authorities said the thieves grabbed at least one key and took off.

“I just saw the mail lady putting her belt back on, and I saw papers all over the place. I didn’t know anything was wrong,” a woman who lives at the apartment complex said.

Detectives believe that the motive is for the thieves to be able to access mail panels at apartment buildings and similar communities to steal mail and perpetuate fraud and identity theft.

Postal police said residents in the area should be mindful of emptying their mail box promptly and reporting any suspicious activity to police until they can investigate to figure out which keys were stolen, and get those locks changed.

“We’re asking residents who live in the apartment complex to be mindful of their mail and give us a call if anything seems kind of unfamiliar to them, because now we have a key out there that can potentially open, not just this panel, but perhaps the panel next door,” Postal Inspector Ivan Ramirez said.

The letter carrier was not injured.

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Man accused of beating ex-girlfriend in van in front of 2 children

A Key Largo man was arrested Thursday night after he beat his ex-girlfriend in her van in front of two children, authorities said.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Becky Herrin said the victim called the Sheriff’s Office at 8:20 p.m. after her ex-boyfriend, David Saletta, 42, attacked her in her vehicle.

The woman said Saletta was intoxicated when he repeatedly slapped her, bashed her head against the steering wheel and bit her on the cheek.

She said Saletta was sitting in the back seat as she was driving and that he covered her eyes at one point.

The woman pulled over at the 99 mile marker of U.S. Highway 1 so she wouldn’t crash the van. She got out with the children, but Saletta followed, she said.

Herrin said the woman and children got back into the van and the woman drove to a Circle K convenience store, leaving Saletta on the side of the road.

Deputies responded to the 99 mile marker and found Saletta walking on the bike path with a beer in his hand, Herrin said.

Herrin said Saletta began screaming at one of the deputies and refused to comply with commands until he was threatened with a Taser.

Herrin said Saletta yelled while he was in the patrol car on the way to jail, but calmed down after he was threatened for a second time with the Taser.

Saletta was arrested on charges of domestic battery, child abuse and violating the state’s open container ordinance.

Records show that Saletta was previously arrested in Nevada on a domestic battery charge.

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Man killed in hit-and-run crash in Miami, police say

A man was struck by a car and killed Thursday night in a hit-and-run crash, Miami police said.

Authorities said officers were called shortly after 7 a.m. Friday to the 6400 block of Northwest 72nd Avenue about a pedestrian lying on the side of the road.

Miami police said the victim, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detectives believe that the victim was struck late Thursday night by a vehicle that was heading north on 72nd Avenue.

The victim’s identity has not been released.

Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

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Robber swipes jewelry from Sam’s Club in Sunrise

An armed robber stole jewelry Friday morning from a Sam’s Club in Sunrise, authorities said.

The robbery was reported shortly after 6 a.m. at the Sam’s Club on West Sunrise Boulevard near Northwest 136th Avenue.

Police said the robber was armed with a gun when he smashed jewelry displays that sit just feet from the front entrance.

“It’s unfortunate,” customer Jonathan Tabares said. “This isn’t really a neighborhood like that, you know, where stuff like that happens.”

Tabares said he went to Sam’s Club early Friday to get new tires, but he had to wait nearly two hours to get in as Sunrise police investigated the robbery.

“Just cops and staff members outside,” Tabares said.

Cellphone video shows the jewelry displays smashed with shattered glass everywhere, and workers cleaning up the mess that was left behind.

Police said the robber followed an employee inside about 6:15 a.m. before the store opened.

The man grabbed what he could and took off, police said. No shots were fired and nobody was injured.

A Sam’s Club spokesman said the employees are cooperating with detectives.

It’s unclear whether the robber left on foot or in a car.

Police hope cameras in and outside the store will help them identify the culprit. Police did not immediately provide a description of the robber or an estimate of how much jewelry was taken.

Anyone with information is asked to call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.

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Police investigate fiery mystery in Miami

Police began investigating a fiery mystery early Friday in Miami.

Miami police said a driver crashed his or her car into a pole and a parked vehicle at Northwest 39th Street and 17th Avenue. Both vehicles caught fire and a third car crashed into a bush, police said.

“I couldn’t believe it at first. I thought the officer might have been joking. When I saw it, I said, ‘Wow,'” Harry Puron, whose parked car was burned, said.

Authorities said one of the vehicles damaged a fence across the street at Miami Jackson Senior High School.

Investigators also found bullet casings at the scene, but  police said they did not find any victims or drivers, and did not receive any calls about shots fired in the area.

Officers blocked off Northwest 17th Avenue between Northwest 40th Street and 38th Street as they continued their investigation.

Students were led past the crime scene tape by police so they could get to school.

Detectives are interviewing witnesses to try to determine what happened.

Authorities said the vehicle identification numbers are difficult to read on the burned vehicles, making it difficult for police to track down the owners.

Police said they are checking with local hospitals to find out whether any gunshot or car crash victims were treated for injuries.

Police said no blood was found at the scene.

Anyone with information is asked to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

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