Golden Gate Estates man arrested for mutilating hamster in Collier faces similar charges in Lee County

A Golden Gate Estates man accused of dismembering a hamster in Collier County is now facing animal cruelty charges in Lee County as well.

Christian Lee Hunter, 21, is wanted in Lee County for a similar incident investigated by Lee detectives in July 2020. He has been in a Naples jail cell since Monday when the Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrested him on animal cruelty charges after finding a beheaded hamster in a box.

In the July 2020 case, someone found a hamster at a Fort Myers Petco that had been ripped into four pieces.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office said Hunter is accused of severing the head of a hamster he purchased from a pet store and then discarding it in a blood-smeared box.

“Animal cruelty can never be justified,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said in the post. “We are hopeful that we have addressed this situation and can connect this individual with mental health services.”

Jason Exantus lives right across the street from Hunter and was shocked to hear he was accused of the cruel treatment of animals.

“They’re dead and in pieces, in a box,” Exantus said. “It’s kinda disgusting and absurd.”

In Collier, a woman found the dead hamster. She told deputies that she had found several other boxes over the last year containing “sadistically mutilated” small animals.

“I think that’s crazy,” Exantus said. “I didn’t see him doing that, but I said he’s pretty quiet.”

Exantus said there are little kids in the neighborhood that could have made the discovery.

“Why would he even want to do that? Was he in his right mind?” Exantus said.

Deputies were able to find Hunter as the suspect because the latest discovery included a receipt from a pet shop in Lee County.

The receipt showed the purchase of the hamster on Jan. 4 for $14.99. Deputies obtained surveillance footage of the purchase and saw a man with a mask and sunglasses but with a tattoo on their right forearm.

Deputies spoke with an officer with the Lee County Animal Abuse Unit who said they had worked a similar case last year. The officer was alerted to it after staff at a pet store found a small critter box in the parking lot that contained a purchased hamster that had been “ripped into quarters.”

In that instance, Hunter told the officer his dog had mauled the hamster.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office, on Tuesday, confirmed an active investigation in that case.

On Wednesday, the agency said it was also charging Hunter with animal cruelty.

In the Lee case, the sheriff’s office was notified of a mutilated hamster found in a box in the parking lot of Petco in Fort Myers. The sheriff’s office did not list an address for the Petco.

Hunter made statements to detectives in that case that proved to be false, the Lee sheriff’s office said.

But the incident in Collier County made Hunter a suspect again.

“Detectives then worked cohesively investigating these incidents in their respective jurisdictions, gathering evidence and building a case against Hunter,” the Lee sheriff’s office said.

According to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post, Hunter admitted to purchasing the hamster found in their jurisdiction. He faces a charge for cruelty to animals and unlawful disposal of dead animals.

Hunter appeared in court for the first time Tuesday. He remains in custody at Collier County Jail and can no longer buy animals.

In Lee County, a warrant has been issued for his arrest. He faces charges of aggravated animal cruelty, unlawful disposal of a dead animal, and making a false statement to a law enforcement officer.

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Melissa Montoya
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