Monkey mischief multiplies into mountain of misfortune

OKEECHOBEE – The owner of the spider monkey Spanky, that attacked two Home Depot employees in Okeechobee, has been arrested in North Carolina after being given a court order that she could not be in possession of the spider monkey.

Tina Darlene Ballard, 56, Pepper Ridge Lane, Newland, N.C., was arrested June 30 by Officer Craig Hughes of the Linville Land Harbor Police Department. Ballard is being charged with a felony of tampering with evidence. Assistant state attorney Ashley Albright said Ballard fled to North Carolina to avoid a court hearing.

Ballard is facing seven charges, including two for negligence for putting the public at risk by bringing her pet spider monkey Spanky to Home Depot where it attacked two employees in two separate incidents. The incidents occurred on Sunday, May 27 and Monday, June 4.

“She had sent an email to the investigating officer stating that she was aware of the hearing and she was fleeing to North Carolina in order to hide the monkey so that state officials could not take that monkey from her,” stated Mr. Albright.

In the email to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Ballard wrote: “Looks like they want to throw the book at me, that’s all well and good and I will face what comes but my daughter’s monkey will not be taken from her!!”

Newland Chief David Vance said the monkey was in the car with her when she was arrested. 19th Judicial Circuit County Court Judge, Jerald D. Bryant informed Ballard’s attorney, Alex Weintraub on Thursday, June 21, that Ballard was given a court order that she could not be in possession of the spider monkey but that it could remain in the possession of another authorized entity. Judge Bryant stated then, “If law enforcement finds her (Ballard) in possession of it (Spanky) then they can seize the monkey at that point and give it to someone who is authorized to possess it.”

After Ballard’s arrest, law enforcement said her daughter’s boyfriend came to temporarily retrieve the monkey which was then sent to live n a primate sanctuary.

Ballard was picked up for extradition back to Okeechobee County on Monday, July 16.
After her extradition and first appearance, she will be given a new date in Circuit Court.

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