BOISE, Idaho -- Police arrested a 22-year-old man Monday after amonkey at the Boise zoo was found dead over the weekend, shortly after azoo security guard frightened away two intruders.
Michael J.Watkins, of Weiser, Idaho, was arrested on felony burglary and grandtheft charges in Washington County, Idaho, where he was being heldMonday night.
A citizen's tip led police to Watkins afteridentifying a hat found in the monkey's enclosure as similar to oneWatkins was wearing the night of the break-in, Boise Police ChiefMichael Masterson said.
Watkins also sought care at a hospital forinjuries to his upper torso sometime after the incident, and the storyhe gave to hospital staff "did not seem to mesh up with the injuries,"Masterson said at a news conference Monday evening.
The patasmonkey was found dead of blunt force trauma to the head and neck earlySaturday morning. The death left zoo workers shocked and devastated, zoodirector Steve Burns said, and the Crime Stoppers organization offeredan award of up to $1,000 for information leading to the culprits'arrest.
Investigators had not had a chance to question Watkinsextensively and have not revealed whether they think the zoo break-inwas a prank that turned violent or something done with more sinisterintent. But the police department and community are "angered andoutraged over this senseless crime," Masterson said.
"The loss of this patas monkey has touched many lives, including our officers and investigators."
The zoo doesn't have surveillance video. Instead, security guards patrol the grounds whenever the zoo is closed.
Itwas a security guard who first ran across the crime, Burns said, comingacross two men early Saturday morning - one inside the zoo and oneoutside the perimeter fence 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.
Burnsand police were searching the grounds when Burns heard a groan andfound the injured monkey outside of its exhibit, near the fencesurrounding the zoo. They were able to get the animal into a crate andto the zoo's animal hospital, but the monkey died just a few minuteslater of blunt force trauma to the head and neck.
An inventory showed none of the other animals was missing or harmed.
Policesay Watkins was visiting Boise with friends over the weekend from hishome in Weiser, an agricultural town about 60 miles away near theOregon-Idaho border.
Court records show Watkins has been introuble with the law before, including drug arrests. Police said they donot know whether Watkins may have been under the influence of alcoholor drugs at the time of the break-in.
Officers have spoken withthe other man spotted outside the zoo but do not expect charges to befiled against him, Masterson said.
Crimes at the zoo are rare, Burns said.
"I've been here for 15 years, and I don't remember any cases wherewe've had a visitor intentionally or even accidentally injure ananimal," Burns said. "People in Boise are usually pretty respectful. Wewere just saying the other day that we can't even remember the last timethat someone was found inside the zoo after hours. The security guardsdo a really good job."
Burns said it will take a few weeks beforehe can decide if the remaining patas monkey will be sent to another zooor if another patas monkey will be brought in as a companion. Theanimals are social and need to be around members of their own species.
Thecrime may have raised interest in the patas monkeys. A donation for theremaining patas monkey under the zoo's adopt-an-animal program came inover the weekend, Burns said.
The monkey exhibit remains open tothe public, although zoo workers were keeping some of the largergarage-sized doors to the exhibit closed to keep down noise, and keeperswere giving the remaining patas monkey a little more attention, Burnssaid. The zoo kicked off a fundraiser to build a new exhibit house forthe primates in September.
"That primate house was built back inthe 1960s and it's just time to update it and provide the animals withmore space and things like that," he said.
For now, he said, zoo workers are just focusing on caring for the remaining 300 animals at the zoo.
"We'regoing to grieve for the animal and make sure the community's OK. Butwe're going to move on with the plans that we have and continue to takecare of the animals. Boise's a really nice place to live, and usuallythis kind of stuff doesn't happen in Boise," he said.