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Originally published Thursday, November 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Alligator's jaws catch suspect in Florida lake

A theft suspect who fled into an alligator-infested lake turned up dead the next day with gator-teeth marks on his upper torso, authorities said Tuesday.

MICCOSUKEE TRIBE INDIAN RESERVATION, Fla. — A theft suspect who fled into an alligator-infested lake turned up dead the next day with gator-teeth marks on his upper torso, authorities said Tuesday.

Justo Padron, 36, of West Miami-Dade, was burglarizing a vehicle near the Miccosukee Resort and Convention Center last Thursday when police arrived, according to a Miccosukee Tribe official.

Padron fled and jumped into a nearby lake where a sign warns people: "Danger Live Alligators." His body was recovered Friday with what appeared to be alligator-teeth marks on his upper torso.

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Wednesday that Padron died of an alligator attack. His death has been classified as an accident.

A Padron accomplice, who was not identified, surrendered and was arrested, said Dexter Lehtinen, a tribe attorney. Lehtinen said the two men were not members of the tribe.

Padron had been wanted by authorities since September for violating his probation after pleading guilty in June to cocaine possession.

He had been arrested more than a dozen times since 1989 on various charges, including burglary, robbery and drug possession, and was released from prison in 2002 after a six-year sentence for burglary.

A 9-foot-3-inch-long alligator suspected in the attack on Padron was killed.

Material from The Miami Herald is included in this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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