A 57-year-old man in Florida was arrested this week after he allegedly tortured and killed a blue heron, cutting off the federally protected bird’s legs before stabbing it and slitting its throat while his young children watched in horror.
Fritz Eugene was taken into custody on Monday and charged with one count of aggravated cruelty to a conservation animal involving pain, suffering, and death, as well as one count of cruelty towards a child — abuse without great bodily harm, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.
According to a sworn affidavit of probable cause, officers with the Port St. Lucie Police Department at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 2 responded to a call regarding a domestic disturbance at a home located in the 5900 block of NW Batchelor Terrace. Upon arriving at the scene, first responders made contact with Eugene’s wife, who stated that she and Eugene had been in an argument and she was fearful because he told her that he “knew people who could take care of her,” police wrote.
Additionally, Eugene’s wife told police that two days prior to the argument, Eugene “took a large bird home after he was done fishing and killed it,” which she only learned about after finding graphic photos of the slaughter while going through one of the children’s cellphones.
“When she asked [redacted] about the picture, the [child] stated the bird’s leg was broken and [Eugene] had stabbed the bird to death,” the affidavit states.
Eugene’s daughter told investigators that her dad went fishing while she was at school and picked her up with the live heron in his possession, police wrote. She said it appeared her dad had broken the bird’s leg in the process of capturing it. The daughter said that Eugene brought the bird to his sister’s home where he stabbed it to death “because he was angry that the bird was eating all of his bait while he was fishing.
The daughter told another detective that while she did not witness the killing, her brother told her that their father had “taken the bird outside and cut its leg off and slit its throat in front of him,” according to the affidavit. Eugene’s wife told police that her son was “distraught about the situation.”
Detectives also say they were able to obtain a photo of Eugene holding the dead heron from one of the children’s phones.
Despite being confronted with the photographic evidence, police say that Eugene told investigators that he “had not come into contact with any bird and did not know what [the detective] was talking about.”
Blue heron birds are protected by the state government under the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Rule and by the federal government under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
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