ISLAMORADA -- The investigation into the shooting death of an American crocodile on Lower Matecumbe Key last month has focused on a home in the Tollgate Shores neighborhood.
In mid-May, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission executed a search warrant on the home of New Jersey-based physician Bill Weisberg, he and other Tollgate Shores residents told the Free Press.
Weisberg, who keeps the house as a vacation home, was not in Islamorada on May 6, when the shooting of the crocodile dubbed Blue No. 9 is believed to have taken place, he said. He also wasn't in town when his home was searched, according to both he and neighbors.
"We were contacted by [FWC] and they said they had reason to believe it occurred on our property," Weisberg said.
"I know I did not do this, and I do not know who did," he added.
FWC spokesman Bobby Dube confirmed that a search warrant was executed as part of the investigation into the killing of Blue No. 9. But the agency is otherwise divulging little about the case.
Lt. Liz Riesz said last week that shell casings that agents sent to the FWC forensics lab are still being analyzed. She wouldn't confirm that a search had been conducted on the Weisberg home.
"It's definitely still an active investigation," Riesz said.
Blue No. 9 resided in the bayside canals of Lower Matecumbe for years. But the 9-foot crocodile drew special attention on April 23, when she nested on the front edge of the yard of Peter and Elaine Vlaun, who live directly across the street from Weisberg's property.
Wildlife officials waited for the crocodile to lay her 27 eggs, then transported her, at the behest of the Vlauns, to undeveloped bayside waters 4 miles north. The eggs were later found to be unviable.
Blue No. 9 quickly returned to the Tollgate Shores vicinity, however. And on May 6 neighborhood resident Keith Allen heard gunshots, he told the Free Press.
The crocodile was found on May 12, a victim of bullet wounds to the head.
In an interview last week, Elaine Vlaun said neither she nor Peter, who heads the Tollgate Shores homeowners association, heard the shots.
"Well, it's been a while," she said. "We really don't talk about the crocodile anymore. It was a terrible thing that happened."
Hal Goforth, who like the Vlauns lives across the street from the Weisberg property, said FWC investigators were around a lot in the week after the crocodile was found. But he has no idea who might have committed the killing.
"No one knows the who," said Goforth, who said he was in San Diego when the killing is believed to have happened.
Weisberg said wildlife officers told him they saw blood stains on his dock that they believe belonged to Blue No. 9.
Despite the FWC's suspicions, he said he has no evidence that anyone entered his house on the day the crocodile was shot. If it happened, he said, the individual could have gained access from a hidden key, as there was no forced entry.
He said he didn't believe it was appropriate to speak publicly about who would have known the key's location.
"We've been cooperating with Fish and Wildlife," Weisberg said.
The increasing population of crocodiles has led to more frequent encounters between them and humans and has intensified a political debate about how to deal with the situation.
Killing an American crocodile, which are designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
The FWC is offering a $6,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of whoever shot Blue No. 9.