LAKELAND (FOX 13) - A Lakeland couple was arrested for allegedly killing a trapped alligator, cutting off its tail, then trying to sell the meat door-to-door in their neighborhood.
State alligator trapper Robb Upthegrove discovered the dead, mutilated gator in his trap beside Lake Parker on Sunday.
"It had multiple stabs to its head and its tail was missing and it was diseased," recalled Upthegrove, who set the trap after a nuisance gator was reported to state wildlife officials.
Shawn Sparks, 33, and Christy Vincent, 27, appeared before a Polk County judge Monday following their arrest by state wildlife officers. Sparks is charged with actually killing the animal, a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Neighbors say the pair went door-to door trying to sell alligator meat just steps from where Sparks allegedly poached the gator on the shore of Lake Parker.
"To be walking around door-to-door and saying, hey, to neighbors, that's bad," offered Greg Chronis, who lives across the street from where it happened.
Upthegrove says whoever killed the trapped alligator wrapped the line that held it around a pole, restricting its movement, then stabbed it to death before severing the tail.
He says gator meat brings $12 to $15 a pound. But alligators are protected by state and federal laws and can only be hunted in season with a state license.