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Michael Watkins, Idaho man, arrested after monkey's beating death at Boise zoo

This booking photo provided by Boise Police Department shows Michael J. Watkins on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. Police in Idaho say Watkins, 22, is facing felony burglary and grand theft charges after the death of a monkey at the Boise zoo. The patas monkey was found dead of blunt force trauma to the head and neck early Saturday morning, shortly after a zoo security guard frightened away two male intruders. (AP Photo/Boise Police Department) Uncredited

Michael Watkins is facing felony burglary and grand theft charges after the death of a monkey at an Idaho zoo
AP Photo/Boise Police Department

(CBS/AP) BOISE, Idaho - Police have arrested one of two men who they believe broke into an Idaho zoo the night a monkey there died from blunt-force trauma, but questions remain about how and why the animal was killed.

A tip led police to 22-year-old Michael Watkins after a hat found in the monkey's enclosure matched the one Watkins was wearing the night two intruders were spotted at Zoo Boise. A security guard frightened away the intruders when he discovered the injured monkey, which died a short time later.

Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson said at a news conference Monday evening that Watkins sought care at a hospital for injuries to his upper torso sometime after the early Saturday incident. The story he gave to hospital staff "did not seem to mesh up with the injuries," Masterson said.

The monkey's death has left zoo workers shocked and devastated, zoo director Steve Burns said. The Crime Stoppers organization offered an award of up to $1,000 for information leading to the culprits' arrest.

Watkins was arrested in Washington County on felony burglary and grand theft charges. Investigators did not have a chance to question Watkins extensively or discover the motive behind the zoo break-in, but the police department and community are "angered and outraged over this senseless crime," Police Chief Michael Masterson said.

"The loss of this patas monkey has touched many lives, including our officers and investigators," Boise Masterson said.

Burns said the guard who discovered the intruders spotted one of them inside the zoo and the other outside the perimeter near the primate exhibit. Both men fled, with one running into the interior of the zoo.

Investigators believe Watkins is the man who was seen inside the fence.

Burns and police were searching the grounds when Burns heard a groan and found the injured monkey outside its exhibit, near the fence surrounding the zoo. They were able to get the animal into a crate and to the zoo's animal hospital, but the monkey died of blunt-force trauma to its head and neck just a few minutes later.

An inventory showed none of the other animals was missing or harmed.

Police said Watkins was visiting Boise with friends over the weekend from his home in Weiser, an agricultural town about 60 miles away near the Oregon-Idaho border.

Court records show Watkins was in trouble with the law before, including drug arrests. Police said they do not know whether Watkins may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the break-in.

Officers spoke with the other man spotted outside the zoo but do not expect charges to be filed against him, Masterson said.

Burns said it will take a few weeks before he can decide if the remaining patas monkey will be sent to another zoo or if another patas monkey will be brought in as a companion. The animals are social and need to be around members of their own species.

For now, he said, zoo workers are just focusing on caring for the remaining 300 animals at the zoo.

"I've been here for 15 years, and I don't remember any cases where we've had a visitor intentionally or even accidentally injure an animal," Burns said. "We're going to grieve for the animal and make sure the community's OK. But we're going to move on with the plans that we have and continue to take care of the animals. Boise's a really nice place to live, and usually this kind of stuff doesn't happen in Boise."

More on Crimesider
Nov. 19, 2012 - Monkey at zoo in Idaho killed with blunt force trauma, police seek suspects

  • Crimesider Staff

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