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The Fury of Social Media Brings Tortoise Abuse Teens to Justice

The Fury of Social Media Brings Tortoise Abuse Teens to Justice

When animals or little kids are harmed, hell hath no fury like social media. Two teenaged girls from Orange Park, Fla., found this out to their everlasting regret in July. Their crime? Let’s just say they richly deserve the righteous anger slung their way by the good people of the Internet.

Jennifer Greene, 18, and a 15-year-old friend decided it would be amusing to spend some time torturing a small, defenseless gopher tortoise and capturing the “fun” on video. While one of the girls recorded the proceedings on her cell phone, the other reportedly did unthinkable things.

The video shows a teen pouring alcohol on the tortoise and trying to set it on fire. The alcohol also splashes on the surrounding sidewalk, catching fire. The tortoise can be seen desperately attempting to flee the flames. The girls try again, this time successfully, to light the tortoise on fire as he tries to get away.

The girl on camera throws the tortoise to the ground and down the street. She stomps on it, trying to crush it. Its organs squeeze out from under its shell. All the while, the girls laugh and cackle with glee, saying things like:

  • “Burn baby, burn baby!”
  • “Now you’re scared of us, huh?”
  • “Let’s light his head on fire.”
  • “Ugh — I just want him to die.”
  • “His heart came out with a bunch of grass.”
  • “He’s dead. That’s funny.”

The teens posted two videos of all this horrific cruelty on Facebook. Apparently they were proud of it and thought their Facebook friends would get a kick out of it. They were sadly mistaken.

Cruel Video Goes Viral, Sparking National Outrage

Not surprisingly, the girls began getting significant backlash from their Facebook friends and decided to delete the videos from their account. Fortunately, a quick-thinking classmate and Facebook friend, Ashtin Erd, captured one of their videos and re-posted it to his own Facebook account to allow others to see and share what these girls had done.

“I don’t really like what they did there,” Erd told News4Jax. “Personally, I’m an animal lover. I wanted to keep (the video) up there (on Facebook) until I know for a fact they got what they deserved.”

Good for you, Ashtin. Chances are these girls would have gotten away with this crime if you hadn’t cared enough to keep the heat on.

A fellow student, Chyenne Padgett, 15, told News4Jax she cried when she saw what her friends did to the tortoise. She didn’t hesitate to alert the police about the video. “It’s incredibly upsetting,” she said.

FWC pic on tortoise abuse

Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Facebook page

For those who want to see and understand for themselves the full extent of what these girls did, at least two angry YouTube users have uploaded the complete video as it originally appeared on Facebook. You can find those videos here and here.

Be advised that what you’ll see there is graphic and distressing. In addition to the atrocities depicted, the language — even in the introductions by the users who uploaded these videos — is decidedly “not safe for work.”

Florida officials heard from people across the country as the heartwrenching video went viral on social media, triggering the investigation that resulted in these arrests.

Teens Arrested for Felony Cruelty to Animals

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) arrested both teenagers on July 25.

From all appearances, the girls seemed not to understand the seriousness of their crime. Amber Teska, a neighbor who lives near the younger girl, said she did not seem upset when taken into custody.

“I had walked out to my mailbox and she was just in the car smiling,” Teska told News4Jax. “She smiled all the way from her house, being handcuffed to the car, and she was inside the car smiling, and it was just disgusting. It’s like she doesn’t even care.”

The teens face charges of felony cruelty to animals and a misdemeanor charge of taking, harassing, harming or killing a gopher tortoise — a protected “threatened species” in Florida. Greene can be prosecuted as an adult, but her underage companion will be prosecuted within the juvenile system, said FWC.

Teen holding tortoise in video

Photo credit: You Tube

The State Attorney’s Office of the Fourth Judicial Circuit is considering the case and has not yet determined what charges are appropriate. However, it’s clear they intend to pursue the matter vigorously.

“We will not tolerate this behavior in the Fourth Judicial Circuit,” State Attorney Angela Corey said in a press release. “We are committed to fully prosecuting those responsible for the torture and death of this vulnerable and threatened species.”

The girls face up to five years in prison on the felony charge and six months in jail and/or a $500 fine for the misdemeanor.

“The statute is the same whether you’re an adult or a juvenile,” Florida attorney Janet Johnson told First Coast News. “There are different kinds of animal cruelty, one is a misdemeanor and one is a felony, this one has to be the aggravated kind, because it is an excruciating video to watch obviously an aggravated killing of an animal.”

Without question, in addition to punishment, these girls desperately need psychological help. If you’d like to encourage the State Attorney’s office to prosecute this case to the fullest extent possible, as well as to find these teenagers the help they so obviously need, please sign this petition. Care2 will see it gets to State Attorney Corey on your behalf.

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Photo credit (main image): Thinkstock

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271 comments

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6:53AM PDT on Oct 20, 2014

What the hell is wrong with these girls (more like hellions than girls)??? What would make someone think it is great fun to watch a helpless animal be tortured and killed?? I just don't get it. Why couldn't they just text on their phones or go to the mall or do anything other than inflicting pain on a poor tortoise???

I hope the judge gives them the maximum sentence!!

5:57AM PDT on Oct 3, 2014

These vile creatures must be severely punished for their vicious crime. In my opinion they should both receive exactly the same treatment they served up to the Tortoise - be doused in alcohol and set on fire, after being tossed around and jumped on by some animal (maybe a very bad tempered Bull) many times their own size and weight, while animal lovers shout "Burn idiots, Burn.

4:38AM PDT on Sep 29, 2014

There's justice

8:07AM PDT on Sep 28, 2014

The killing with such cruelty of this endangered turtle, defenseless, made me sick to my stomach. The two girls both deserve the more severe jail sentences possible. They also need some mental health help. I love animals, too, and am really disturbed by humans who do these cruel acts without any sense at all of regrets, not recognizing the suffering they are putting on the animal, and have no sense at all of compassion for such a little turtle. Please, no slaps on the wrists, they MUST be punished by serving prison time, to teach them the value of life --which they seem to not have at all.

7:19AM PDT on Sep 10, 2014

Hopefully these girls get what they deserve. Good on the guy who followed up so they could be called up on it!

3:54PM PDT on Aug 29, 2014

Brainless evil cowards,are the kind of sick people who kill animals.So there is another reason for them to be locked away for a very long time,if not indefinitely.This is why I became an animal rights campaigner several years ago. I read about this kind of thing every day and the trauma never leaves me..I think there's nothing more disgusting in the world than people who treat animals that can't do anything against their fate and do not deserve it in a cruel way.Cruelty to all must be stopped and it must come from parents who bring up children to instill respect for others,and fellow creatures,teachers in schools to continue this education and if children cannot then to be allowed to discipline in a way that suits parents/teachers then as young adults/adults we must have a police force that can use courts to punish offenders with punishments that meet the crime slap on hands are no deterrents.

7:58PM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

Wow - future female serial killers - they should be isolated for life, poked, prodded and studied. Poor little turtle and poor sad stupid bitches - they will not have an easy life.

6:52PM PDT on Aug 27, 2014

We had a similar case a few days ago in Brazil. A teen threw her mother's cat from the window from a 14 floors building. The cat died, of course. The girl filmed it and it's on youtube! Apparently they don't know it's wrong. How come? They think it's something to be proud of, as they want so many people to watch. How kind of disease they have? Not normal at all. I don't know if the Brazilian girl will be arrested. Things are not easy down here.

5:56AM PDT on Aug 25, 2014

What are we teaching our children!!! Torturers and killers are not BORN, they are MADE by their society!!! FOOD FOR THOUGHT, don't you agree?

10:00PM PDT on Aug 24, 2014

I, too would have signed but I am so far behind on my emails that I missed out. This is apalling that these two "girls" could have thought to do this to a baby tort. How can actions like this make them feel so superior and PROUD to make an animal "afraid" of them. These girls are sickening and deserve to have the book thrown at them. I hope that karma bites them in the butt in kind by recieving the same abuse towards themselves and learning what it is like "to be afraid" instead of smug and happy.

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