Still No Arrest in Torching of Animal Rescue Group's Van; Fundraising Heats Up | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Still No Arrest in Torching of Animal Rescue Group's Van; Fundraising Heats Up

It doesn't sound like investigators are close to solving the arson case of the van used by a Boca Raton charity for spaying and neutering animals. But only two weeks after the fire, Animal Aid is likely to make more in donations than it lost when the van went up in flames.

Animal Aid President Tamera Gibson said her nonprofit organization bought the van for $10,000. The money raised since the February 14 fire? "It's over $9,000," she says, "and we have so many events this weekend."

Tomorrow's American Kennel Club Confirmation Show, for instance, which is matching donations to Animal Aid. The Whale Raw Bar and Fish House in Parkland is having a raffle on Sunday. And there are other groups that have stepped up for Animal Aid listed on the organization's website. Even a Utah animal rescue group called Best Friends Animal Society is joining the effort.

So what about that arson investigation?

A spokesperson for the state fire marshal reported no new developments in the investigation. The Boca Raton Police Department's incident report says that a "possible white male suspect observed leaving the area [who] matches the description of Thomas Hurst."

Based on the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office booking blotter, 45-year-old Thomas Hurst has a rap sheet full of transient-type charges: trespassing, public consumption of alcohol, obstructing a public street. But nothing nearly as serious as arson.

The witness, a cleaner, picked Hurst's photo out of a lineup, but she wasn't very certain that he was the man she saw leaving the scene, says Gibson, who isn't convinced this was a deliberate act.

"I don't believe someone would intentionally do this," she says. "We don't have any enemies -- it's not logical to me." Gibson says that someone had pried open the door. That, plus it having been a cold night, leads her to suspect that a homeless person broke into the van, then started a fire to keep warm.

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Thomas Francis

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