Second suspect in zoo animal thefts faces judge

By Chuck Weber bio | email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - A second young man, accused of stealing zoo animals, appeared before a judge Wednesday. Police said there could be more arrests, and that they were looking at the possibility the suspects were trying make money from their endeavor.

Eighteen-year-old Jonathan Lopez faced Judge Krista Marx, charged in the theft of four monkeys, a parrot, and a golf cart from the Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park in West Palm Beach.

The arrest report says Lopez lives two doors from the abandoned house where officers found the animals in a hot shed. Three of the monkeys were being held in Tupperware-type containers with holes punched in the top. According to the report, a witness identified Lopez carrying a cage to the back of the home.

Prosecutors ask the judge to set a stiff bail, saying, "Due to the way these animals were held by the defendant, the extreme heat would have killed them if they were in that condition much longer."

Lopez's lawyer pointed out her client had no prior trouble with the law. And, she said, the other suspect charged so far, a 17-year old, got home detention in the juvenile system.

But Judge Marx kept bail high, at $25,000, and ordered house arrest.

"Your honor, we object to the bond as being unfair and excessive," responded Lopez' lawyer. "He's got no criminal history at all."

After the hearing, a couple identified as Lopez' family, left court, declining to comment.

Local monkey breeder Nancy McLeod told us immediately after the thefts, if a group of teens were trying to peddle monkeys like these, legitimate dealers would sense something was amiss. Unfortunately, zoo personnel and others in the animal trade say, there is a black market for exotic animals in South Florida.

As for the recovered animals, zoo staffers report the critters are doing well. The parrot is back outside in his cage; however, the monkeys will remain at the zoo clinic for a few more weeks as a precaution.