The former founder of BUDDIES Rescue Inc. in Myakka City is behind bars on a capital sexual battery charge.
Keith Wandell, 47, was already awaiting trial on multiple counts of animal cruelty after a dead dog was found hanged on his property in March 2018.
According to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office press release, deputies received a report from Children Services in Richland County, Ohio, regarding a case of molestation on a victim under the age of 12 that occurred 10 years ago in Myakka City.
An investigation was launched in Manatee County and detectives learned that Wandell had an open 2015 case involving the same victim around the same time period.
The sheriff’s office is limiting the release of details of the case but said based on the similarities of the two cases, arrest warrants were obtained in mid-June, but Wandell could not be located.
On July 3, deputies obtained a description of his vehicle and set up surveillance.
“At the appropriate time he was taken into custody in Sarasota County without incident and booked into the Sarasota County jail,” the press release states.
Wandell was transported to the Manatee County jail on July 8 where he remains in custody.
In 2018, Wandell was charged with seven counts of cruelty to animals and one count of aggravated animal cruelty and was awaiting trial.
Animal Services and law enforcement were called to Wandell’s home in the 6200 block of Juel Gill Road where the hanged dog was observed. A second dead dog was inside a wire crate, Wandell told deputies he was letting decompose so he could save the skeleton, deputies say.
Seven additional dogs were found inside the home in crates and in various stages of neglect.
BUDDIES Rescue was long since defunct after Wandell was cited in 2011 with 63 code enforcement violations. Wandell touted his facility as taking in “problem” animals and retraining them for adoption.
In June, Wandell was charged with seven counts of violating his pretrial release after deputies found an animal in his possession against court orders.
In the latest case, Wandell is also charged with lewd or lascivious molestation.
The victim was 9 years old when Wandell sexually abused her, according to a sheriff’s office report.The victim first came forward when she was 16 after the victim learned Wandell was trying to reach out to a younger girl on social media. The second girl has also come forward with accusations, the sheriff’s office said.