Palmetto man facing jail time for killing girlfriend's rabbits, battery

jdeleon@bradentonApril 3, 2014 

Staff Photographer



MANATEE -- A Palmetto man who killed his girlfriend's two pet rabbits, demonstrating what he said he would do to her, is now facing jail time.

Francisco Velasquez, 36, killed the rabbits Oct. 21, 2013, after an argument with his girlfriend turned physical and he threatened to kill her.

Velasquez pleaded no contest to one count of battery and two counts of cruelty to animals in court Wednesday morning.

Defense attorney Patrick Ford indicated they were ready to proceed with sentencing, however, Judge Edward Nicholas already had a trial waiting.

"Mr. Velasquez, I take sentencing very seriously, as I am sure you do," Nicholas said. "I know you are eager to resolve your case. I just don't think I will be able to give your case the time it deserves."

A sentencing date has yet to be set.

"It is not unlikely that I will sentence you to more than a year in the county jail, but I don't want you to have a misconception that I have a sentence in my head," Nicholas said.

Nicholas asked Assistant State Attorney Lisa Chittaro for an indication of the state's likely recommendation.

"I will reserve the sentencing recommendation until after hearing witness testimony," Chittaro said.

"It will likely involve incarceration."

Velasquez is not expected to testify at the sentencing hearing.

On the morning of Oct. 21, Velasquez got into an argument with his then-girlfriend and began to curse her, shoved her in the temples and threatened to kill her or snap her neck.

Velasquez was also charged with theft after authorities found a stolen window air conditioning unit at his residence. The air conditioner was taken from a home in the 1000 block of 72nd Street Court East, Palmetto, according to the arrest report. Formal charges have not been filed by the State Attorney's Office although the theft case remains open.

Witnesses reportedly saw him threaten and push her before walking over to the rabbit's cage. Velasquez then opened the cage and took out one of the rabbits.

"The defendant took the white rabbit and beat it in the head with his fist until it was dead, and then dropped it on the ground," the arresting deputy reported. "The defendant then pulled a white-and-brown rabbit out of the cage and then also beat it to death with his fist."

The victim reportedly told investigators: "This is what I'm about and more."

Velasquez then took the two rabbits and threw them into the mangrove trees, according to witnesses. His girlfriend then locked herself in a car until deputies arrived.

Investigators took photos of white rabbit hair in Velasquez's hair, and samples were taken at the Manatee County jail.

"When a deputy at the jail asked what is that in your hair, the defendant said it was the hair from where he killed the rabbits," the deputy reported.

This was not the first time Velasquez threatened to snap his girlfriend's neck, according to the report.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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