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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2006

Man charged with beheading dead seal

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A 24-year-old man has been charged with beheading a dead Hawaiian monk seal at a remote beach on the north shore of Kaua'i.

Justin Freemon was charged with violating the state Endangered Species Act and intimidating a witness. If convicted, Freemon faces a maximum year in prison and $250 fine.

On May 1, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' enforcement division received a tip that the head of a seal was at Pila'a Beach near Kilauea. Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers were able to find the seal's head and then a possible suspect, identified as Freemon.

Freemon was arrested and charged May 12 with the misdemeanor offense. The endangered Hawaiian monk seal is protected by state law, and fewer than 1,300 remain, said Robert Masuda, DLNR deputy director.

"These laws prohibit harassing, harming or killing a monk seal," Masuda said. "It is important to remember, too, that all monk seals, both alive and dead, are protected."

The cause of the seal's death is under investigation, he said.

Clifford Inn, DLNR spokesman, last night said he did not know if Freemon was a resident of Kaua'i. Inn also said he did not know details of the case, such as why Freemon would allegedly decapitate a dead seal, or what led officers to Freemon.

State officials are asking anyone with information about this case to call enforcement official Tarey Low on Kaua'i at (808) 274-3521.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.