A Florida man who claimed to be a voodoo priest was charged Wednesday with aggravated animal cruelty in the fatal beating and mutilation of a pit bull whose condition caused a national outcry.
Brendan Evans, 31, faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.
The pit bull, named Ollie, was found stuffed inside a blue suitcase in an alley Oct. 10 after officers followed the sound of his cries. He had been stabbed more than 50 times.
Ollie died at an animal hospital two days after he was found. His story led to adoption offers from around the country, and a GoFundMe page set up for him raised about $40,000 before his death.
"Hollywood detectives and officers have seen and investigated animal cruelty cases before, but none as horrific as what we’ve seen in the case of Ollie,” said police spokeswoman Miranda Grossman.
"We will not tolerate any form of animal cruelty or violence in our city," Hollywood Acting Police Chief Chris O'Brien said in a statement. "Each reported case of animal cruelty, be it physical abuse or neglect, is disturbing, and this case is particularly heartbreaking. We were all pulling for Ollie to survive, but unfortunately he didn’t make it.
"However, due to our investigation, we are now able to provide justice for Ollie," O'Brien said.
According to a police report, officers who searched Evans' apartment Nov. 14 discovered several mutilated rats in the freezer, along with two cat paws, knives covered with dried blood and animal fur. Officers also discovered an eight-pointed star as well as a candlelit shrine that included pieces of a flyer about Ollie's death.
They also found notes, one of which read, "Make the entire pit bull investigation go away. Return all curses placed on Brendan to their sender. Give Brendan peace of mind." As officers searched his apartment, the Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported, Evans posted a message on Facebook claiming to be a voodoo priest.
DNA taken from the suitcase where Ollie was found was a match for Evans and WSVN reported officers found one of the pit bull's teeth in the suspect's wallet.
The Sun-Sentinel reported that Evans was arrested by Broward County sheriff’s deputies in 2012 on domestic battery charges and is currently on probation for a 2015 bank robbery in Hernando County. WSVN reported that Evans' fingerprints also link him to a residential burglary in Hollywood.
The paper also reported that a Fort Lauderdale police officer spotted Evans attempting to kick a duck and her ducklings. When questioned, Evans said he wanted to kill the ducks because he practices voodoo. Police said Evans also purchased two kittens this past June from a person in Delray Beach who called police when Evans called back a few days later requesting to buy more kittens.
Neighbors of Evans expressed relief at his capture, with one telling WSVN, "He could have graduated and moved up, you know, so I’m just glad that they got him."