Sat, May 18, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Court rules monkey killer must undergo treatment in prison

AP, BOISE, Idaho

A man convicted of breaking into a Boise zoo last autumn and beating to death one of two Patas monkeys has been ordered to spend up to a year in a treatment program at a state prison.

Michael Watkins, 22, was sentenced on Thursday for his role in the Nov. 17 crime that caused shock and outrage in Idaho’s capital city and beyond.

Watkins pleaded guilty in March to felony attempted grand theft for illegally entering the zoo, built in a city park a few blocks from the downtown, and animal cruelty, a misdemeanor under state law.

Fourth District Judge Lynn Norton rejected defense attorney requests that Watkins deserved probation and would be punished enough by the shame of being “forever known as the man who killed the monkey at Zoo Boise.”

Instead, Norton said she wanted a punishment that fits the crime, but allows the young father of a seven-month-old son to turn his life around.

Prosecutors say Watkins, fueled by a night of excessive drinking at downtown bars with a friend, broke into the zoo with a plan to capture one of the monkeys. Once inside, he manipulated a lock to get into the primate enclosure and removed the Patas monkey by wrapping it in his jacket and tried throwing it over a fence, according to court records.

However, the monkey resisted, tried running away and a chase through a small section of the zoo ensued. Ultimately, Watkins lost control of the situation and resorted to violence, kicking the monkey and clubbing it multiple times in the head and upper body and leaving it to die from those injuries, Ada County Deputy Attorney Shawna Dunn said in court on Thursday.

The monkey’s death stirred shock and outrage in the community, but also traumatized zoo employees who tended to the Patas pair, zoo officials said.

It also caused concern about the welfare of the survivor, because Patas monkeys are extremely social and the prospect of having it live alone prompted zoo administrators to find a new home or others to adopt. Ultimately, the Rosamund Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York, donated two companions in December.

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