Two Chapman University lacrosse players have been arrested after the disappearance of a turkey from Orange High School’s agricultural area prompted an animal cruelty investigation, police said Tuesday.
The turkey was last seen 5 p.m. Saturday, April 16, but when students went to tend to farm animals at the campus at 7 a.m. Sunday, the turkey was missing, according to Orange Police Department press release.
Then, about 5 p.m. Sunday, Orange County Animal Care received a report from a resident in Orange who had discovered a turkey.
“Tim,” an American heritage Slate turkey, was found with his feathers missing or cut off, police said. Photos of the bird taken by an Orange County Register photographer showed him missing most of his tail feathers.
A school official told KTLA the turkey smelled of beer.
He had trouble breathing, along with multiple other injuries, the Register reported. He was being treated at a vet hospital Tuesday.
Steven Thomas Koressel, 23, and Richard Brenton Melbye, 21, were arrested and booked into Orange County jail, according to police and inmate records.
They were taken into custody Monday on suspicion of theft and released early Tuesday on their own recognizance.
It's not known what happened to the turkey, or how his feathers went missing, police Sgt. Phil McMullin said.
Koressel is a senior lacrosse player from Huntington Beach, according to his profile on the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association website. A "Brent Melbye" is a junior lacrosse player from Carlsbad, the same website states.
A spokeswoman for Chapman University confirmed the two arrested students were members of the lacrosse team but said she could not identify the students due to federal student privacy laws.
"Two Chapman students have been identified and arrested by the Orange Police Department in the incident in which the turkey was abducted from Orange High School. The University will also undertake the appropriate disciplinary actions according to our Student Conduct Code," a brief statement from the university read. "The University will not tolerate any instances of theft, animal abuse or cruelty, is appalled by this behavior, and takes this issue extremely seriously. "
Orange High’s agriculture program keeps farm animals on the campus, and students learn to care for them on a 2-acre farm. The program began in 1903, when the campus opened, the Register reported in 2013.
Tim is a “sweet part of our program and petting zoo,” said teacher Patti Williams, who runs the program.
The slate turkey was regarded at practically extinct by the late 20th century, according to Heritage Foods, which sells rare and heritage farm meats.
Anyone with information on the crime was asked to call the Orange Police Department at 714-744-7444.