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Pet tortoise escapes yard; neighbor shoots, kills it

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – A Zionsville woman said someone shot and killed her pet tortoise, Merlin, after it got away from her yard.

Police said a man who lives on farmland near the woman admitted the shooting. Detectives are now trying to figure out why he shot the tortoise and whether he broke the law.

A deputy said this kind of case is new to the Boone County Sheriff’s Office. They’re investigating whether Merlin was on the shooter’s property or just nearby.

Tasha Chapel was the owner of the tortoise.

“I am so sick to my stomach that anybody would do something so drastic like this,” Chapel said.

Chapel and her fiancé said they don’t know how, but Merlin got outside the fence and away from the yard. They said they believe they closed the gate.

After hours of looking for the tortoise, Chapel said, she heard Merlin had been spotted in the neighborhood. She said a man who lives nearby called and told her he’d shot Merlin.

“He goes, ‘I was scared and I didn’t know what to do,’” Chapel said. “So I said, ‘Your resolution was to shoot him?’”

In a phone call with 24-Hour News 8, the man who allegedly shot the tortoise declined to comment on a motive. He called the incident “terribly unfortunate.”

The man said he gave his side of the story to detectives but refused to tell us that story. He wouldn’t say whether it was an accident and he said his lawyer is involved in the case.

The man’s lawyer released a statement Wednesday saying the man apologized to the pet’s owner immediately after realizing his “terrible error in judgment” and continues to indicate a desire to make amends.

The Zionsville man who has lived in the area for decades, apologized to the pet’s owner immediately after he realized his own terrible error in judgment. He expressed his sincere sorrow to the family and continues to indicate a desire to make amends. The overwhelming negative response on social media with distorted facts and speculation, has put a barrier between the man and the pet’s owner with attempts to make amends nearly impossible. The family is understandably angry and grieving for the loss of their beloved pet. The man is devastated that he mistook the exotic pet for a potentially harmful animal. He is hopeful that he will be able to meet with the pet’s owner to more fully express his sincere apologies.

Chapel said the shooter told her over the phone that he didn’t want the tortoise “going deeper on my property.” She said, at one point, the man told her wasn’t sure what the tortoise was.

Chapel is asking people to buy #JusticeForMerlin T-shirts to help her with legal fees. There is also a YouCaring page set up for fundraising efforts.

The sheriff’s office said they are working with the Indiana State Board of Animal Heath, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the prosecutor’s office.