Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Berkley Students Charged in Sanctuary Bird Murder

On December 27, 2012, prosecutors in Clark County, Nev., filed charges against U.C. Berkley law students Justin Teixeira, 24, and Eric Cuellar, 24, after an incident at the Flamingo hotel’s Wildlife Habitat on October 12, 2012, in which the students were seen on surveillance camera chasing a 14-year-old guinea hen into the trees, and then coming back with the bird in two pieces. Witnesses were shocked to see them playing catch with the decapitated bird’s remains. According to John Sheahan of Las Vegas Metro Police, at the time they were, “laughing and joking about the fact of what they had done.”

They aren’t laughing now, as Teixeira faces charges including felony killing and felony torturing of an animal, and Cuellar a misdemeanor charge of instigating, engaging in or furthering an act of animal cruelty. A felony conviction for Teixeira would probably mean that he will never be accepted to the Bar. District Attorney Steve Wolfson described the crime as, “a pretty horrendous act,” and told The Associated Press that the investigation is ongoing, and that he is considering filing charges against two more people, “I’m hoping we can send a message to people who visit that this is totally unacceptable.” Wolfson concluded.

Also the December 14, 2012, incident at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at K.U. in Lawrence, Kan., in which a live turkey was reportedly tortured and then killed at the frat’s 29th annual turkey pull, is being investigated by police. The formal holiday celebration was to involve a turkey dinner, and someone thought it would be a great idea to have a live turkey on hand in a cage (the turkey was for show, not to be eaten, or pulled). Tragically, it would seem that there were also frat boys on hand, and the majestic bird wound up dead.

Lisa McKenzie and Chad Boydston, members of the blues band Grand Marquis that was hired to play the party, reported the incident “About seven guys kicked the cage in, then they spent 45 minutes throwing it around like a basketball. They broke its wing. They carried it by its legs. One was squeezing its neck,” McKenzie said. “I tried, but they wouldn’t give it to me. It ended when they took it out to the porch and wrung its neck.” The band ended the set early and called police. Sgt. Trent McKinley described the scene a little differently, “The turkey was injured, intentionally or unintentionally, and this went on for some time, so we believe some individuals tortured the animal,” which according to witnesses had begun screaming, until one killed it purportedly “to end its suffering.” Fraternity President Ryan O’Grady denies everything, “I am aware of the story, but that is not what happened,” he said. “I deny everything.” On December 17 the Beta Theta Pi national organization suspended the Kansas chapter of the frat indefinitely.

Police are investigating the incident as a case of possible animal cruelty, and will forward their report to the Douglas County Attorney’s Office. The Attorney will determine whether charges should be filed. No arrests have been made, and all the students involved have gone home for Christmas break.

Berkley Law Students Arrested for Murder Most Fowl

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