Idaho man accused in monkey's death

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BOISE — A 22-year-old man was arrested Monday for the beating death of a Patas monkey at Zoo Boise that has gained national attention.

Michael J. Watkins, of Weiser, is accused of killing the male monkey during a burglary at the zoo early Saturday. He’s in the Washington County Jail on felony burglary and grand theft charges. The theft charge relates to the death of the monkey.

A second man believed to have waited outside the zoo while Watkins broke in has been identified but is not facing charges, said Boise police Chief Mike Masterson at a press conference Monday night.

The case has sparked outrage around the country.

A tip to Crime Stoppers on Sunday led police to identify Watkins as a suspect. Police connected the tip to an investigation that occurred Saturday morning when a man reported to a local hospital with injuries. That man was Watkins, and police realized his injuries may be connected to the break in and monkey attack.

“The story did not seem to mesh with the injuries,” Masterson said. Police have not said if they know of a possible motive for the burglary or if they know why the monkey was killed. Masterson said more details will be released as Watkins’ case proceeds in 4th District Court.

Detectives planned to submit their investigation to Ada County prosecutors today.

Police responded to the zoo about 4:30 a.m. after a security guard spotted two men near the primate exhibit. One was inside the fence, the other was outside. The men fled, but police found a hat they believed one had left behind. That hat belongs to Watkins, Masterson said Monday.

Authorities were searching the zoo for the thieves when they heard groaning and found the monkey badly injured outside his cage. He was treated by the zoo’s veterinarian but died a short time later of blunt force trauma to his head and neck.

Zoo Director Steven Burns praised the arrest at Monday’s press conference. He said the monkey’s death devastated his staff and has garnered an “amazing amount” of attention across the country.

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