Friday, March 3, 1989

Florida: Jimmy Finklin, 20, and Rodney Wiggins, 21, Arrested For Beating Pit Bull To Death After It Lost Fight

FLORIDA -- Two Pompano Beach men have been accused of arranging a pit bull fight that resulted in the losing dog being beaten to death with a shovel.

Jimmy Lee Finklin, 20, and Rodney Wiggins, 21, were charged with fighting or baiting animals, a felony, and cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor.

Broward Sheriff's Office investigators said the men kept their animals at the home of Carolyn Phillips, who had several pit bulls in cages in the back yard of her home in the 3600 block of Northeast 14th Avenue, near Pompano Beach.

The men arranged a Jan. 28 dogfight at Phillips' house and agreed that if the losing animal survived it would be killed and buried in the yard, deputies said.

When the fight was over, a sheriff's spokesman said, Wiggins dug a hole in the ground, dragged the losing dog to the hole, killed it with a shovel and buried it. A neighbor called the Sheriff's Office the next day.

A search on Feb. 3 failed to find any remains, but detectives took custody of two pit bulls that, they said, bore scars from fighting. Both dogs were placed in Broward County Animal Control kennels. Police said they are not sure who owns the dogs that were seized.

Sheriff's Detective Don Banas said Phillips had been in jail on a drug charge on the day of the dogfight. Banas said she was released the next day and told the men to get rid of the dog's remains when she discovered the carcass was buried on her property.

Detectives arrested Phillips during the Feb. 3 raid on charges of possession of cocaine and narcotics paraphernalia. Phillips told deputies that the dog's body had been removed and dumped in the ocean.

Although they did not find the remains, detectives said they found evidence that an animal had been buried in the yard.

Detectives returned to the house with another warrant on Feb. 10 and seized another pit bull, cages, collars, dog food and assorted equipment. They then obtained arrest warrants for Finklin and Wiggins.

Wiggins has been in custody since last week on an unrelated drug charge. Finklin surrendered on Thursday to sheriff's deputies.

If convicted on both charges, they could each be sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison and fined a maximum of $6,000.

All three animals remain in the custody of Broward Animal Control.

The arrests prompted animal rights activists to call for increased pressure on elected officials to end so-called blood sports.

"Dog fighting is a lot more prevalent than many people think, and because of it we have a whole breed that is not safe to have as house pets," said Lani Wigand of the Broward County Humane Society.

"Until we get our elected officials to make stopping it a priority, we're going to continue to have pit bulls attacking children and killing cats and incidents like this one."

(Sun Sentinel - March 3, 1989)