Arrest made in zoo monkey’s beating death

Posted at 11:21 AM, Nov 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-20 13:21:02-05

(CNN) — Police in Boise, Idaho, said late Monday that they have made an arrest in connection with a break-in at a local zoo and the death of a patas monkey there.

Michael J. Watkins, 22, faces two felony charges, burglary and grand theft.

“I speak for many of us in the police department and the community who were angered and outraged over this senseless crime,” said Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson. “As usual, it was a combination of a citizen tip and good police work that led us to the arrest in this case.”

Police were called to Zoo Boise early Saturday morning by a guard who reported a burglary in progress. The security guard saw two men, one inside the zoo and one outside. They ran.

During an unsuccessful search for the man inside the zoo, police and zoo employees found a patas monkey that was seriously injured near an exhibit where the suspect was last seen. The animal died; the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Following citizen tips and information gleaned from the investigation, police arrested Watkins in Washington County, Idaho, where he remains in custody.

He has injuries on his upper torso, but police have not yet been able to determine the cause of those injuries, Masterson said.

The police chief declined to speculate on the suspect’s motives. He said he does not expect the other man the guard saw at the zoo to be criminally charged.

Zoo Boise still has one patas monkey that the staff is giving extra attention in the wake of the other’s death.

“For the short time, he is OK being by himself, but that’s not a long-term solution. Monkeys need to be housed in social groups, and so … we are actively trying to find another patas monkey that we might be able to bring the zoo,” said Steve Burns, the zoo’s director.

He said members of his staff were confused and angry when he first told them what happened.

“They kept asking why and I didn’t have an answer for them,” he said.

CNN’s Greg Morrison contributed to this report.