October 26, 2014

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Spider monkey, owners had unusual odyssey before car dealership incident

VERMILION — It’s been a busy four months for 20-year-old Jacob Ruehlman. Since September, he has allegedly stolen two pet gibbons in Nebraska, traveled across state lines, been charged in Florida and resurfaced in Vermilion after his pet spider monkey reportedly bit an employee at a car dealership.

Jacob Ruehlman

Jacob Ruehlman

On Tuesday, Ruehlman arrived at Pat O’Brien Chevrolet, 4545 Liberty Ave., Vermilion, with a brother, whose name was not released by police, and their pet spider monkey, “Brody.” According to Vermilion police, an employee at the dealership who was helping the brothers asked if he could pet Brody.

When he did, the monkey bit him on the thumb, drawing blood and sending the employee to Mercy Regional Medical Center in Lorain.

Ruehlman told police the monkey had his rabies shots in Missouri last year, which was later verified by a veterinarian there. Officers told the brothers they needed to find a facility to quarantine the monkey for three days. Neither Ruehlman nor his brother has been charged in connection to Tuesday’s incident, but police continue to investigate.

This is not the first time Ruehlman has had problems with police regarding his care of monkeys.

In July, Jacob Ruehlman and a brother, Michael, also 20, moved in with Nancy Stephens in Nebraska after meeting her online, Stephens said.

Stephens, who owned two gibbons of her own named Caylee and Cody, said she offered to take the brothers in because they said they needed to leave Ohio, where laws about owning exotic pets were getting stricter. She said they lived with her for a few months and she even paid for a vaccination for Brody before the brothers suddenly moved out in the middle of the night.

But, according to Stephens, they were back in mid-September, snuck into Stephens’ house and stole Caylee and Cody, bringing the gibbons and Brody across state lines into Florida.

“They think they’re above the law,” she said, adding that she hasn’t talked to the men since they moved out.

The brothers’ travels ended Sept. 19 with a sting operation orchestrated by Debra Misotti, director of the “Talkin’ Monkey Project,” a facility that cares for monkeys in Florida, and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

Misotti said she knew the brothers from conversations with them before Stephens’ gibbons were stolen. The two had asked her specific questions about caring for gibbons, and when she heard that Caylee and Cody had been stolen, she immediately suspected the Ruehlman brothers, she said.

Through almost 20 phone conversations with the brothers, Misotti said she was able to convince them to give the stolen gibbons to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The gibbons were turned over to the “Talkin’ Monkey Project,” where they are being cared for.

“They’re traumatized from being stolen,” Misotti said.

On Sept. 19, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office found the men in Fort Myers, and charged them with dealing stolen property and six charges related to having exotic animals without a license. The status of those charges is unclear.

During their arrest, Brody was confiscated and given to the care of the “Talkin’ Monkey Project” where Misotti said he had difficulty living without his owners.

“He was extremely stressed and did need his family.”

Based largely on Misotti’s suggestion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to return Brody to the brothers soon after their arrest.

Misotti said she knows Brody is with the men and even heard about the incident in Vermilion. However, she thinks it’s for the best.

“That species is a familial species. To remove him from his family environment is a death sentence,” she said.

Spider monkeys must be taken everywhere because they require 24-hour care, which would explain why the brothers took Brody to the car dealership, Misotti said.

Despite her support of the brothers, whom she said are “loving” to their pet monkey, Misotti said she knows they might need a little more education on how to take care of an exotic animal.

“They need to be more cautious and cognizant of the real world,” she said.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.


  • Ralph Davis

    Sounds like that monkey needs to be spanked….

  • Jennifer Williams

    Why have they not been charged of having an exotic pet with no license?

    • thestingisthetruth

      Because they are incapable of enforcing the laws they make.

  • rlm_Lorain

    So, they must be the only people in the US to own spider monkeys. If spider monkeys “must be taken everywhere because they require 24-hour care”, why is it that in all my travels across this great nation of ours, I have never, ever once run into someone with a spider monkey in public?

    • jpreyno

      Because you don’t drive a Chevrolet?

    • Deborah D Misotti

      I was misquoted. I stated primates such as spider monkeys require 24/7 care.

  • DonMega

    This is not the end of this story.

  • brewmaster

    By the looks of that dude, he knows a little about spanking monkey’s.

  • Deirdre Kewer Herbert

    This story sure is evolving with more excuses by the minute!
    Two twin brothers lived in Ohio as the support for the Exotic Animal Law was picking up momentum. These two brothers decided they did not want to be held accountable so they picked up and moved contacting a woman in another state playing on her own passion and sympathy for exotic animal ownership. This woman shares their love for exotic animals and her home with these men and their monkey only to be paid back by having these men take her 2 Gibbon monkeys and crossing several state lines before being caught. This sympathetic woman now has to come up with money out of her own pocket to travel to Florida from Nebraska to secure her monkeys and bring them back home. Mean while, these two men get their own monkey back with a slap on the wrist. They travel back to Ohio and settle into Lorain County thinking they escaped their wrong doing were the Exotic Animal Law was already a hot topic. Brody the monkey becomes the center of attention here because these two young men need to carry this type of species of monkey around with them for bonding and the monkey bit someone out of fear or dislike because they gave a complete stranger permission to pet it.
    Now these two men and their family/friends are crying foul because they chose to ignore the law and parade their monkey around Lorain County for bonding issues and feel that their past history with exotic animal misconduct should be overlooked and that the concerned citizens of Lorain County should have compassion and sympathy for their lack of intelligence and need for attention!
    My question is:
    * Does the monkey have a micro chip implanted for tracking?
    * Do these men have a surety bond or insurance covering the animal should it
    attack someone?
    * Have they met the caging requirements for this breed as outlined in the law?
    * Did they notify the appropriate County, City, and State officials that they had
    this monkey back in Ohio in Lorain County?
    * Did they file for a permit and pay the fee with the Ohio DNR?
    I have a strong suspicion that they have not met all of these requirements and were fully aware of the requirements prior to leaving Ohio with their monkey the first time and then returning thinking no one would be the wiser!
    I also feel that if this breed of monkey requires 24/7 bonding then these two brothers should have taken turns staying home full-time with their monkey instead of parading it around town attracting attention.
    Simply put…….. I have no sympathy for anyone who believes they are ignorant of the law, attempted to skirt the law by moving, and then moved back after drawing a lot of negative attention elsewhere and believe that life with Brody should go on without consequences!
    .

    • Deborah D Misotti

      These MEN, because let us not forget 20 years of age makes them men, are using this poor monkey as a crowd-pleaser, not as a primate. They should be held accountable for their actions. The spider monkey in question should not. Rabies are not possible in primates any more than it is a viable disease in humans, it can only be contracted by a bite from an infected animal. The authorities are being as asinine as these men. Brody should not die for their carelessness. A tempest in a teapot and hysteria brewed by the media. Confiscate the primate, and turn it over to a viable sanctuary situation. Fine and punish the culprits. For the record, the 24/7 bonding was a misquotation by the reporter. I stated the primate had bonded strongly to the men in question and required
      24/7 care.

      • Deirdre Kewer Herbert

        Deborah, I appreciate your clarification on your representation on this subject manner. I do not wish for Brodi to be put to sleep and would prefer that a sanctuary that if recognized for high quality of care and has met the criteria of the law where they are located be given the opportunity to intervene on behalf of Brodi and take ownership to prevent further misuse and abuse of this animal’s welfare.
        I do agree also with the enforcement officials need to be proactive in charging these men with the appropriate laws that were broken given their history of misconduct related to other exotic animals across state(s) lines.
        Unfortunately these two men moved from Ohio to avoid these laws and requirements and then moved back. It is now up to state officials to determine the fate of Brodi since the grace period has expired.
        I am not heartless when it comes to these animals but I have no sympathy for the exotic animal owner who attempts to manipulate a situation to their advantage thinking they are above or beyond the law.

    • proccw

      very well said!

    • Razorback Twou

      Wow, you know your monkey business.

  • John Boy

    Old man, I’m gonna come at you like a spider monkey!

  • Bob Owens

    This is exactly why wild animals need to stay in the wild.

  • Phil Blank

    Morning news said they will now kill the monkey to test its brains for rabies.

    • beety

      They put him down last night… sad.

  • thestingisthetruth

    Wonder if they will let me buy the body, I want to get it stuffed or eat the rest of the brains like they did in Indiana Jones.

  • SpaceTech

    I think they should have euthanized the twin brothers and set the monkey free!

  • jz

    Those are some weird dudes.

  • Steven P. Farris

    Please watch this video…Does this look like a criminal…And Ralph Davis you need to grow up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x9tR-SWDQA