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Burglars Slit Pet Dog's Throat, Leave It Hanging In Woman's Closet

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FORT LAUDERDALE -- The burglary that left philanthropist Elaine Vasquez's home thoroughly ransacked was bad enough. But that was not the worst of it.

A blood trail led toward a bedroom closet where the homeowner's pet dachshund, Papi, was found slain, police said. He was suspended by the neck with a nylon strap, and his throat had been slit, they said.

A bloody knife was left in a hallway. On the inside of the front door a message had been scratched into the wood: "YOU NEXT."

Police originally listed the Jan. 21 incident as a hate crime. But on Tuesday, Detective DeAnna Greenlaw said that designation was made in error. Police say they have no suspects, but still are investigating.

"I know nothing. I don't know who hates me," Vasquez, 69, said Tuesday.

Vasquez is the widow of Erwin Vasquez, a cardiologist who ran a free medical clinic in Oakland Park, La Clinica Luz Del Mundo (Light of the World Clinic). He also was instrumental in the creation of various Hispanic organizations, including El Heraldo de Broward, the first Spanish-language newspaper in the county.

Since his death from cancer in 2010, Elaine Vasquez has continued the couple's charitable activities through the Erwin and Elaine Vasquez Family Foundation.

Reached by telephone earlier this week, Vasquez's daughter Lisa Miceli, said, "We are not allowed to discuss anything. We're sad, that's all."

The incident has shaken Vasquez's friends. "Senseless," said Sandra Lozano, executive director of Light of the World Clinic. "What kind of people could do that?"

Lozano said Papi was Erwin Vasquez's constant companion. "We were all moved because we knew how much Papi meant to Elaine. He was Erwin's dog, and her connection to him."

"She babied that dog like she babied her grandchildren," Lozano said.

According to police, Vasquez came home just after noon Jan. 21 to find the glass smashed in a rear patio door. She entered the house, situated on Northeast 26th Place, through the front door to discover the single-story residence ransacked, police said.

She called police, who searched the house to find "ransacking in every room of the house," according to the incident report.

One officer followed the "light blood trail into the small closet," where he found the dog. When she was told the dog was killed, Vasquez was "inconsolable," police said.

Some items were reported missing from the home, but Greenlaw said detectives have not disclosed specifics.

Neighbors told police that a white SUV had been spotted in the area around the time of the break-in.

Miceli told police that she and her mother had reported a suspicious vehicle parked across the street from the house on Dec. 31. They described that vehicle as a white pickup.

They ask anyone with information to contact Detective Michael Benson at 954-828-6561.

mwclary@tribune.com ___

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