John Boyko wants someone held accountable for the boys who broke into his Price Township home and threw rocks at his pet American alligators, injuring two and indirectly causing the death of one of them.
Boyko wants the boys' parents or legal guardians to cover the more than $15,000 he now owes in veterinary expenses for the gators' injuries stemming from the June 2011 incident.
But, at the end of a recent Monroe County Juvenile Court hearing, charges against all but one of the five boys who had been accused were dismissed.
One was found delinquent and placed on juvenile probation, Boyko said.
Positive IDs lacking
Charges were dismissed after only one neighbor testified he could positively identify just one of the boys, who were ages 9 to 13 at the time of the incident.
It's unclear what exactly the one boy was found delinquent of, since juvenile court proceedings are not public record, and neither Boyko nor his neighbors who testified on his behalf know.
The attorneys involved were unavailable to comment.
"This sends the wrong message to kids that they can get away with committing crimes against others," said Boyko, 51, of Bridgeport, Conn.
Boyko in 2005 relocated his gators from Connecticut to Pennsylvania, which doesn't require people who own exotic animals to get permits, and has since been housing them at his Price Township property.
Since gators require less constant attention than do other animals, Boyko has been traveling from Connecticut to check on the gators once a week, ensuring they have ponds and everything else they need, and relying on neighbors to watch over them when he's not there.
On June 29, 2011, when Boyko was in Connecticut, his neighbor, Dave Trechel, was heading out when he saw five boys take off on bicycles from the front of Boyko's home.
Trechel said Boyko's front door was open when the boys took off.
Having no time to chase after them, Trechel told another neighbor, Mario Alzate, that the boys had just broken into Boyko's home and to call 911.
Alzate did, got onto his ATV and followed one of the boys to his home in a separate development.
Alzate talked to the boy's family, telling them what had happened, and stayed until police arrived.
"The kid started crying when his father came to talk to him, but I couldn't hear what they were saying," Alzate told the Pocono Record.
'Baby' drowned in pond
It was later discovered that rocks had been thrown at the 11 gators and that two of them, 9-year-old "Juvi" and 6-year-old "Baby," were the most seriously injured.
Juvi had a fractured leg and Baby had ulcers and a hernia from eating some of the rocks the boys had thrown, though the rocks were later removed from its stomach.
After questioning the boy Alzate had followed home, police identified four other boys, and all five were charged in juvenile court.
Juvi and Baby were taken to Creature Comforts in Saylorsburg and then flown in November to Spartan Animal Hospital in McFarland, Wis., for surgery.
In January, while the gators were still recovering at Spartan, Baby was found dead, having apparently been drowned by Juvi in the pond they shared.
"Gators are territorial," Boyko said. "I think Juvi was hurting, uncomfortable and cranky as a result of having been injured, maybe saw Baby getting a lot more attention and got jealous. None of that ever would have happened had my gators not been hurt by these kids in the first place."
izeable vet care bills
At the juvenile court hearing, Trechel testified to being unable to positively identify the boys as the ones he saw fleeing Boyko's home.
"They looked like they could have been the kids I saw, but I couldn't be 100 percent certain," he said.
Alzate could identify only the boy he followed home.
"The other ones, I only saw the backs of their heads," he said. "I'm guessing police identified who the other four were from talking to the one I followed."
Because only one of the boys was positively identified, charges against the rest were dismissed.
"It's a shame," Trechel said. "There's no justice for John."
Alzate agreed, voicing concern for community safety.
"If these boys are truly guilty and they're now off scot-free, whose house are they gonna break into next?" he asked. "What other kind of crime are they gonna commit next?"
As of now, the nine of the surviving gators are still in Boyko's Price Township home. Juvi is still at Spartan Animal Hospital in Wisconsin.
"Juvi is waiting to come back home with me, and I still have to bury Baby," Boyko said. "But, I can't go out there until I figure out how I'm going to pay these vet bills."
He said he owes $2,400 to Creature Comforts for the initial work done there on the gators, while veterinarian Dr. Michael Wenninger at Spartan said Boyko owes more than $13,000.
"We're very sympathetic to John's situation," Wenninger said. "He has a good prior history with us, and we know he's not trying to scam us. He went to court expecting justice and restitution for veterinary expenses and got neither.
"We admit John's situation is one we've never had with any other customer," he said. "We'll do what we do in other cases and try to work out some type of payment plan."
Boyko said it seems the only option left to him at this point is hiring an attorney to take legal action against the parents of the boy found delinquent.
"That takes money I don't have," said Boyko, whose website is www.thegatorguy.com.