MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The grandmother of the 17-year-old St. Paul girl who received her dog's head in a gift-wrapped box said Friday that an arrest in the case was "just a huge relief."
"It felt like a car was sitting on our chests and now it's off," Shirley Brown told The Associated Press. "It's just unbelievable."
The Ramsey County Attorney's Office on Friday charged Anthony Albert Gomez, 24, of St. Paul, with felony counts each of animal cruelty and torture for allegedly killing Crystal Brown's dog and sending her the head. He was expected to make his first court appearance later in the day.
Gomez was in custody Friday and couldn't immediately be reached for comment; the court had not yet appointed an attorney to represent him.
Shirley Brown said Gomez and her granddaughter had once dated, and that Gomez had expressed jealousy when Crystal began dating someone else.
Crystal Brown was devastated when Chevy, her 4-year-old Australian shepherd mix, went missing last month from the home she shares with her grandmother. "Crystal has been through so much you can't believe, and she really leaned on that dog," said Shirley Brown.
Two weeks after Chevy disappeared, a gift box addressed to Crystal was found at the front door. Inside, she found Valentine's Day candy and a garbage bag containing Chevy's head.
Shirley Brown said she and Crystal immediately suspected Gomez, who was arrested Thursday, and gave his name to police. She said Gomez lived near the Browns for years.
"He was a neighbor. He ate at my table. I've given him rides to work," Shirley Brown said. "I befriended this kid."
The criminal complaint, written by Sgt. Jim Gray, indicates that Gomez's cell phone contained video clips of a dog having its head removed with a chain saw. The complaint alleges that Gomez admitted that the crime happened in his basement but said others were responsible for decapitating the dog and sending it to Crystal Brown.
Gomez also said Crystal Brown was present for the decapitation, which she denied to police.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said she'd "never seen anything like this after a long time in office. It's hard to imagine what would go through a person's mind to make them do something like this."
The case drew media attention worldwide, and Crystal _ who has a new puppy _ received an outpouring of support from as far away as Australia. People sent cards, photos of pets and dog toys and treats. The television show "America's Most Wanted" posted the case on its Web site. A $2,500 reward offered by the Humane Society of the United States quickly grew to $20,000, thanks to donations.
Dale Bartlett, the Humane Society's deputy manager for animal cruelty issues, said it's the most generous response the organization has ever seen to an award. He said the Browns could themselves be eligible for the award, since they apparently helped lead police to the suspect.
"After what they've been through, I can't think of anyone I would rather see the award go to," Bartlett said. He said that determination will be made after a conviction in the case, with input from investigators who worked on the case.
Crystal now has a new puppy, named Diesel, and Shirley Brown said they are bonding after just a few short weeks.
"That dog's only 10 weeks old, and she's already got him sitting up and shaking hands," Shirley Brown said. "That's just Crystal _ she's always loved animals."