Couple pleads guilty in SoCal tiger escape case

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Los Angeles (AP) — The owners of a tiger that was shot and killed as it roamed the hills near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library two years ago have pleaded guilty to several federal charges related to the animal’s escape.

Gert “Abby” Hedengran, 58, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, making false statements and failing to maintain proper records as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, the U.S. attorney’s office said Monday.

His wife Roena “Emma” Hedengran, 54, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to maintain records of exotic felines.

The couple, now residing in Pahrump, Nev., was scheduled to be sentenced April 9. Prosecutors had recommended that Gert Hedengran be sentenced to 14 months in prison and that his wife receive four months of home detention, three years probation and pay a $2,000 fine.

The Hedengrans were arrested in their Moorpark home in March 2005, after denying they were the owners of “Tuffy,” a tiger that roamed the brush near the Reagan library for several weeks before it was killed by trackers.

The tiger had been declawed and apparently was raised in captivity, but authorities did not know that until after the cat was killed.

In court, Hedengran admitted he misled investigators who were tracking down the big cat.

Authorities said the Hedengrans came under suspicion because they were among the few owners of large cats in the area. They had recently moved to Moorpark from Temecula, where they had permits to have three large tigers, but investigators found only two tigers on their Moorpark property.

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