May 16, 2013 4:23 pm

Man must go to prison treatment program for beating monkey to death

Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson, with Zoo Boise Director Steve Burns, announced the arrest of Michael J. Watkins, 22, Weiser who investigators say killed a Patas monkey at Zoo Boise in Boise, Idaho, after breaking into the zoo early November 17, 2012.

Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/MCT via Getty Images

BOISE, Idaho – A man convicted of breaking into a Boise zoo last fall and brutally 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 Thursday for his role in the Nov. 17 crime that caused shock and outrage in Idaho’s capitol city and beyond.

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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 misdemeanour under state law.

Fourth District Judge Lynn G. Norton rejected defence 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.

But 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 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.

© 2013 The Associated Press

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