The hunt for a New York tortoise thief appeared to have come to an end Tuesday after a Queens man turned himself in to police a month after the beloved reptile was stolen from an environmental center, officials said.
Shawn Waters, 36, turned himself in after allegedly stealing the 100-pound African spurred tortoise named "Millennium," the New York Post reported. The tortoise disappeared from the Alley Pond Environmental Center in Little Neck on July 17.
Waters' mother, Amy, however, said she believes the media is blowing her son's case "out of proportion." She told the New York Daily News on Wednesday that Waters "love animals."
"That’s his passion. And now they’re trying to create him like he’s some kind of monster on the news? Like, come on," she said. "They’re trying to blow this thing out of proportion, and I think this is getting really ridiculous now. I mean, come on now — let’s stop the circus."
The mother questioned how nobody noticed her son taking a massive 17-year-old tortoise out of the center.
"A 100-pound turtle ... If he took it on the bus or something, wouldn’t somebody notice that?” she said. "That turtle was huge. So that’s another thing that’s odd, because this is a huge a-- turtle from what I saw."
The tortoise thief remained a mystery until police received a call on July 24 from a Connecticut man saying he unknowingly bought a stolen tortoise from Waters, The New York Post reported. The two men allegedly met at a train station in Fairfield and traded Millennium for $300 and a musk turtle.
The Connecticut man, who was not identified, then realized the prized animal he just purchased was stolen after hearing media reports, officials said. He called police and the tortoise was returned last week.
Millennium was returned to the environmental center, where he remains a popular attraction.
Waters was charged with grand larceny and possession of stolen property, though it's still unclear if authorities believe Waters stole Millennium directly from Alley Pond Environmental Center or he wound up with the tortoise afterward.