'IT'S A WONDER' Suspected killer's fish lives after seven months alone in a townhouse
November 07, 2009 4:28 PM
MIRAMAR BEACH — When employees from Contractor’s Choice and members of the homeowners association walked into alleged murderer Danny Baker’s long-vacant townhouse, they expected to find mold. But they were shocked to find a fish had survived seven months without food or clean water.
The fish, which appears to be a plecostomus and blends in with the rocks in his large tank, was overlooked when police came into the home to remove Baker’s other fish and birds. He was almost overlooked a second time, as much of the water in his tank had evaporated, and the remaining water was black with filth by the time the townhouse was opened for cleaning.
“I was very upset because I thought the police had taken everything after Danny’s arrest,” said Dianne Richmond, vice president of the homeowner’s association. “This poor fish has been in that boiling house with no air conditioning and nothing to eat for about seven months.”
The first floor of the townhouse is dominated by a fish tank that is built into the wall and stretches almost the entire length of the living room. The remaining space is filled with a couch and four bunk beds, as well as two more fish tanks in a corner. Large bird cages, which according to a neighbor held birds that could recite prayers and say “I love you Danny,” cover the back patio.
The fish went unnoticed for so long because Baker’s home was closed to the homeowners association after his arrest in February for allegedly shooting five Chilean students in his Miramar Beach subdivision with a rifle. Two were killed and three were seriously injured before Baker barricaded himself in his townhouse. He surrendered to police the next morning, and is currently awaiting trial.
Months later as workers began the long process of cleaning and removing mold, the fiancee of Contractor’s Choice owner, David Fritz, noticed something moving in the tank. After sprinkling some fish food in the water, the plecostomus immediately moved for his first real meal in months.
Josh Olis, an account manager at Contractor’s Choice, said he didn’t believe it when his boss told him a fish was still living in that tank, and he had to see it for himself. After confirming the fish’s existence, he and the owner put about 50 gallons of water back in the tank. He said he would continue to make sure the fish was fed for as long as the company is working in the home.
“I think we’re going to accept him into the cleaning family for now,” Olis said. “He’s been living in that tank for so long, surviving off algae. I have so much respect for him, I had to name him.”
As of press time, the future of Theo, as Olis calls the survivor, was still up in the air. Richmond and employees from Contractor’s Choice said they will continue to care for him for now but hope to find someone to give him a permanent home.
“This poor fish has really worked for a new home,” Richmond said. “It’s a wonder he’s survived this.”