Monday, September 7, 1987

Florida: Broward Fugitive Vikki Kittles Found In Animal-filled Van

FLORIDA -- Vikki Kittles, who disappeared months after being arrested in 1985 for having 42 animals in her Wilton Manors home, is in jail in Manatee County, officials said.

Vikki Rene Kittles (also known as Susan Dietrich, Rene Depenbrock, and Lynn Zellan), 40, was arrested on Friday night in Ellenton, a small town near Bradenton, where she had been living in "an extremely dilapidated junk van" with 35 to 40 cats and dogs, the Manatee County Sheriff`s Office said.

"Miss Kittles has lived in these conditions along with her elderly mother for quite a long time in order to prevent her discovery and arrest," Deputy Tom Shanafelt wrote in a report to a judge in Manatee County.

Jean Sullivan, Kittles' mother, who had left Wilton Manors with Kittles, still has not been found, deputies said. Her disappearance is under investigation.

"Miss Kittles' elderly mother has not been located, and Miss Kittles will not make any statements as to her whereabouts and/or well-being," Shanafelt wrote.

On Sunday, Kittles was being held in the Manatee County Jail without bond. She was arrested on outstanding warrants from Broward County of aggravated assault, improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon and battery, deputies said.

Manatee County officials said on Sunday that they had not received word from Broward County on when Kittles is to be transferred to Broward.

Detectives found Kittles about 11 p.m. Friday with help from a private investigator that Kittles' sister-in-law, Carol Kittles, hired.

Carol Kittles of Kendall was married to Vikki's brother, Rex, who died in March. She said she used money from a life insurance policy to hire the investigator to find her mother-in-law.

"My husband and I had wanted to (hire one) earlier, but were unable to. I decided to use the money to find his mother, since that was what he had wanted," she said.

Police have been looking for Vikki Kittles since late 1985, after she was arrested for failing to appear in court that September on a charge of animal cruelty. She arrived three hours late for her trial, minutes after Broward County Judge Irwin Berkowitz issued an arrest order for her.

She was then jailed on $2,000 bond. She also had failed to show up for her original trial date, Aug. 6.

Kittles was arrested on May 18, 1985, at her Wilton Manors home, where she had kept two horses, three cats and 37 dogs. Kittles also is accused of threatening a neighbor with a gun.

(Sun Sentinel - September 7, 1987)