Super Bowl V

The Valley's bid for the Big Game may be derailed by five missing tortoise babies

Shortridge's notes show that he also kept the Cardinals owner informed as he located two additional male adult tortoises on the site, and as he observed the female, in June, build a nest and lay five eggs.

"Reported to Mr. B that there wasn't a thing we could do about the situation, not after the female laid eggs," wrote Shortridge on June 25.

Farrell explains the quandary that Shortridge and the Cardinals found themselves in:

Injured Cardinals running back Thomas Jones
Injured Cardinals running back Thomas Jones
Warner Shortridge's photo of the Glendale tortoises in late March 2002
Warner Shortridge
Warner Shortridge's photo of the Glendale tortoises in late March 2002

"According to state guidelines, developers planning to move more than five tortoises for a construction project must notify the Game and Fish Department and ask for guidance. Shortridge had initially found four tortoises on the site, and the Bidwills might have figured they could still take care of things relatively quietly. But when the adult female laid eggs and then all five of those eggs hatched, that plan was shot to hell. All of a sudden they had nine tortoises and a huge bureaucratic headache. It's no mystery why the Bidwills came to believe these tortoises needed to disappear."

Shortridge continued to observe the nest, but heard nothing from Bidwill. Then, on July 10, the Cardinals bought out the remainder of his contract. Shortridge, who has since taken a position with the Colorado State Department of Natural Resources, did not answer numerous calls.

Internal team documents, however, show that Shortridge's abrupt departure came over the objections of then-general manager Bob Ferguson.

"It was the first sign of a split over this issue that would later grow to consume the entire team," Farrell says.

Nothing seems to have been done about the tortoises for weeks. Finally, with the football season under way and the Tourism and Sports Authority nearing a decision between the Glendale and Mesa stadium sites, Bidwill apparently concluded it was time to make the tortoise problem disappear.

Documents show that Bidwill entrusted the job of removing the tortoises to the team's longtime compliance officer, Frank Jantzen.

Team sources describe Jantzen, a personal friend of Bill Bidwill's, as a gregarious if somewhat diminutive man in his 40s known for his taste in exotic cars, flavored vodkas and younger women. At the time Farrell estimates Jantzen first began to move the reptiles – early October – it was common knowledge inside the team that Jantzen was romantically involved with a member of the Arizona Cardinals cheerleading squad.

Jennifer Morgan (not her real name) was a recent addition to the troupe, an ASU student who, in her Web site biography, describes herself as an ardent animal lover who enjoys working with autistic children.

It was Morgan who, after learning from Jantzen that the team was removing the tortoises illegally, eventually came forward, contacting Farrell and feeding him internal team documents that other similarly outraged insiders had smuggled to her.

New Times agreed to Farrell's request to keep Morgan's real name hidden.

"She's already feeling the heat," Farrell says. Recently, he points out, her photograph was removed from the Cardinals' official cheerleaders Web site.

Morgan initially agreed to speak with New Times, but later, on the advice of her attorney, changed her mind. But Farrell turned over transcripts of his taped interviews with her, sessions that he intends to include in the consortium's court filings.

According to Morgan, Jantzen first told her about the tortoises on October 8.

From the transcript: "Frank said he wanted to find the turtles a nicer home than a field in Glendale, so he told me he was going to pick up the mother and five babies, drive to Tempe and put them into the Town Lake. He said they'd be happier there. . . . That asshole. I told him, Do you think just because I'm a cheerleader I don't know that desert tortoises can't swim?' He then changed his story and said he was supposed to move the turtles to a safe place. But he never said where."

Morgan said Jantzen wouldn't talk about the tortoises after that confrontation. But later, in a futile bid to regain her affections, Jantzen produced an undated photograph taken of the five juveniles, cradled in his hands.

Farrell obtained a copy of the photo, but he says it's been impossible to determine when or where it was taken.

"She suspected that some tortoises were left at the location. And as for the babies, Jantzen wouldn't tell her anything," Farrell says.

"And you have to remember what was happening at that time. Just the week before," Farrell adds, "the state Court of Appeals had rejected John F. Long's attempt to overturn a ruling on the legality of the Tourism and Sports Authority. As far as [Jennifer] knew, the stadium was a done deal, and bulldozers would soon be heading out to bear down on those tortoises."

For Morgan, the pressure boiled over several days later at Sun Devil Stadium during a game with the Dallas Cowboys on October 20.

"It was an exciting game, but Jennifer looked terrible," says another cheerleader, Cyndee Embry. "When I asked her what was wrong, she blurted out the whole thing. About Frank, about the turtle babies. It was unbelievable. But plenty of people on the sidelines overheard it."

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