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Suspect accused in brutal San Jose tortoise attack is taken back into custody after returning to crime scene

Photo via Archvet Animal Hospital/GoFundMe
By Wesley Severson - Published on February 02, 2021.

A 40-year-old homeless man from San Jose is back in jail after police say he returned to the scene of a preschool where he was arrested days before for a bizarre crime spree.

On Friday at around 11:30 a.m., San Jose police arrested George Robles near the Play 'N' Learn school on Massar Avenue. In a press release, the department says they caught Robles running away from the campus after he caused more than $1,800 in damage to the building and children’s play area.

Investigators say Robles got into the facility by jumping over a fence, and once he was inside he assaulted a 65-pound pet tortoise named “Michelangelo.” 

They say Robles beat the reptile and then used some sort of wooden shank to stab its outer shell. The abuse was discovered by a co-owner of the school Saturday morning.

According to the Mercury News, Michelangelo is recovering at an animal hospital and is doing well. The preschool received the African Sulcata tortoise from a rescue group four years ago, and it lived in a large enclosed garden where the attack occurred.

Robles was arrested on felony vandalism and animal abuse charges, and was issued a 72-hour mental health evaluation hold. 

Robles reportedly showed back up to the preschool at 6:40 a.m. Monday morning holding a brick, while allegedly looking for the tortoise. He ran off after he was spotted by a staff member and then was taken back into custody near the school Monday afternoon.

KPIX shared surveillance video from the Play 'N' Learn school that allegedly shows Robles back on the campus.

Staff members say they are shocked and angered that Robles was let go so soon after such a brutal attack.

"My goal is that he gets convicted, he gets charged, and he gets locked up so the safety of not only our animals but our children and staff are safe because a person that would do something like that to an innocent tortoise, I can't imagine what he would do to a person," said Play 'N' Learn co-owner Tammy Lariz to KPIX. 

San Jose police have not said yet how long they will be holding Robles or whether he is facing any new charges on top of the counts he was already facing for the incident on Saturday. 

It also remains unclear whether Robles ever went to Valley Medical Center for the mental evaluation that was initially ordered or if his early release was directly from the jail.  

Coronavirus outbreaks inside San Jose’s main jail have forced the courts to give more suspects early releases and payment free bail to ease crowding behind jail walls.

The motive for the attack against the innocent tortoise is also a mystery.

The animal hospital has setup a GoFundMe page to aid in Michaelangelo's recovery, and you can donate here.

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