Owner of traveling reptile show charged with animal cruelty

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Updated 5/21/2021 9:36 AM

An Elmhurst woman who owns a traveling reptile show faces animal cruelty charges alleging she failed to properly feed and provide other necessary care to her snakes and other creatures, DuPage County authorities say.

We first wrote about Shelby Becci in April, when she sued the county, its state's attorney's office and the Chicago Herpetological Society to get back nearly 60 snakes and about a dozen other reptiles that had been seized in February.


The animals were found by federal agents when they raided an Addison man's property during a weapons investigation. Becci's attorney then told us she was renting space in a garage because her home had been damaged in a fire last year. Animal control was called in, and it asked the herpetological society to care for the animals.

This month, the state's attorney charged Becci, formerly of Villa Park, with seven counts of animal cruelty, and seven counts of failure to perform owners' duties.

Prosecutors say she didn't provide adequate food, water, light and heat to her animals. Temperatures in the stand-alone garage ranged from 53 to 65 degrees, well below the necessary 75 to 82 degrees the reptiles needed, according to court records.

One snake had thermal burns, likely from desperately snuggling up to a heat source, according to a report from Dr. Susan Brown of Rosehaven Exotic Animal Veterinary Services. The report is part of a request prosecutors filed Wednesday seeking to permanently take away the reptiles.

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About half the reptiles were underweight, Brown wrote, including five that were "emaciated." There were urine and feces in the enclosures and in food and water dishes, and there were multiple reptiles in some of the enclosures, which is not good practice, she wrote.

Authorities also found shed skins in some cages, indicating they probably had not been cleaned for several months. Other snakes had retained dead skins, another sign of ill health or the lack of a textured surface to rub on. Some were infested with mites.

What else?

According to the court documents, there was spoiled and dried commercial food. A ball python had an irregular mass in its abdomen, was bloated and was unable to raise itself. The snake with the burns also had rat bites. There were live rats in cages, but also running around the garage, according to Brown.

A dead, dried blue-tongue skink was within 3 feet of the door, and there were two dead snakes in the garage.

Two of the seized reptiles later died, likely because of their mistreatment, according to the criminal charges.


Brown noted that because reptiles -- unlike us mammals -- don't have the facial and eye structure to express emotion, people tend to think they don't have feelings and don't experience pain.

"Nothing could be farther from the truth," she wrote. "It is currently recognized in the scientific community that reptiles have complex cognitive and emotional capacities which translates to greater needs in captivity than a tiny bare cage, suboptimum temperature and inappropriate lighting or diet."

Patrick O'Shea, a former DuPage County judge, leaves the Kane County Branch Court during his trial on a charge of reckless conduct.
Patrick O'Shea, a former DuPage County judge, leaves the Kane County Branch Court during his trial on a charge of reckless conduct. - Daily Herald file photo/2017
Judge's license suspended:

Disgraced former DuPage County Circuit Court Judge Patrick O'Shea can't even practice law now. The Illinois Supreme Court has suspended his law license for one year.

To get it back, he would need to apply to the court, and have a hearing by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

The Illinois Courts Commission removed him from the bench in 2019 for misconduct. It found he had made false statements to police and the Judicial Inquiry Board over his firing a handgun in his Wheaton apartment.

He was acquitted of reckless conduct regarding the shooting, in which a bullet went through a wall and ended up in a neighbor's apartment.

New charge in carjacking:

A 16-year-old boy was the shooter in the January carjacking in Aurora that severely injured a woman, authorities now say.

The boy -- who was 15 at the time of the attack -- is charged with attempted first-degree murder. The charge was revealed during a May 11 hearing in Kane County juvenile court.

He also faces felony charges of aggravated battery with a gun, armed violence, possession of stolen motor vehicles, unlawful possession of a gun and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Prosecutors are asking to have the boy tried as an adult. He is due back in court June 8. In the meantime, he remains in the custody of the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center.

The boy's name is not being published, by order of the judge, which is a standard practice in Kane County juvenile court and other juvenile courts.

A 26-year-old co-defendant faces charges of aggravated vehicular hijacking, aggravated battery, armed violence and possession of stolen motor vehicles. Authorities suspect a third person -- a juvenile -- was involved, and a fourth suspect -- also a teen -- died in an unrelated crime.

Justin Dalcollo
Justin Dalcollo
New trial, new trouble:

Justin L. Dalcollo, who pleaded guilty in September to robbing and raping a woman in Bloomingdale, received permission Thursday to withdraw his plea. The case is now set for trial in July.

Dalcollo, who could have been sentenced to up to 75 years in prison, is now representing himself in court.

And he is in some new trouble. A DuPage County grand jury indicted him May 11 on three counts of forgery. Dalcollo, 36, is accused of filing false documents with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, including a false transcript of court proceedings, a false felony complaint and a false verification of felony complaint.

Dalcollo has been trying, since late October, to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial. He alleged he didn't fully understand the consequences of his plea, nor the warnings the judge gave him about them. He also says he tried to tell the judge he was not satisfied with the performance of his lawyer, but the judge refused to listen.

Dalcollo is charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault with a firearm, armed robbery, aggravated unlawful restraint with a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. Authorities say he kidnapped a 21-year-old woman in 2019 in shopping center parking lot, made her drive to an Glendale Heights ATM to withdraw $300, forced her to drive around Hanover Park and Bartlett, and then to the casino in Elgin, where he allegedly assaulted her in a parking garage.

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