Go to Desert Shores and, chances are, you’ll see the swans floating gracefully along the lakes, a serene reminder that nature is boundless in her beauty.
On Nov. 8, that serenity was shattered when residents discovered the mutilated bodies of an adult swan and two baby swans, as well as three ducks. A reward was put up. Police received a tip, and five males were arrested and charged with killing and mutilating the animals, a felony.
On Feb. 29, the juvenile who was arrested was set to appear before a judge in Juvenile Court. That morning, protesters from Nevada Political Action for Animals (NPAA) stood outside with posters urging people to stop cruelty to animals.
Dee Paturzo, known in Desert Shores as the Swan Lady, was there. She set up the foundation that owns the birds, buys their special food and feeds them daily. She brought the swans to the lakes more than 12 years ago. Also there was Sen. Mark Manendo, District 21, who put up part of the reward, and Stacia Newman, president of NPAA.
“I hope the judge hands down the maximum sentence,” Paturzo said before the perpetrator appeared before the judge. “I want him to get jail time or (at least) probation until he’s 21. … It’s absolutely brutal what he did, to bludgeon those swans and ducks to death. They were loved by the community.”
Dee Britton, another swan advocate, said she was “glad to see him get his day in court. When you care for animals … you look after them like they’re your kids.”
Manendo was looking beyond the attack and what it might mean.
“Hopefully this individual gets some treatment so he doesn’t graduate on to people in, you know, six months,” Manendo said. “Because if they learn they can get away with it, that’s what happens. Statistically, the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world started out with animals.”
The defendant’s parents, located inside, declined to comment to the press. The father hung his head.
In the courtroom, the Cimarron-Memorial student, who cannot be identified because he is a juvenile, was escorted in and sat quietly in a jail-issued orange T-shirt. His lawyer said the 17-year-old had no prior incidents of violence, came from a stable family and was a standout on the school’s wrestling team, ranked ninth in the state. He said the attack was a one-time event that occurred because the defendant was upset over an incident involving a girl.
He said his client was prepared to plead guilty to Count 1, a felony, to avoid a trial.
The judge ensured the defendant understood to what he was pleading and what it meant. When Judge William O. Voy told the student that the owners of the birds were in the audience and he should apologize to them and the Desert Shores community as a whole, the juvenile said very softly, “I want to apologize for what I’ve done.”
There was a long silence as those in the courtroom waited for him to continue.
The defendant stayed quiet.
“OK,” the judge said, breaking the silence.
Voy sentenced the boy to one-month house arrest, 12 months probation, 500 hours of community service, restitution to the owners, a formal letter of apology, no contact with the owners, being banned from Desert Shores and suspension of his driver’s license.
The last part was a big win for the waterfowl owners, said Paturzo, as driving restricts his freedom, making it a more impactful consequence for someone his age.
“The brutality, the way the animals were killed, so maliciously, we are happy with the judge’s (determination) but mostly, probation until he’s 21,” Newman said.
Judicial actions for the four other male adults who took part in the killings have not yet been scheduled. Juvenile Court moves faster in consideration of the age of its defendants.
At Desert Shores, the vestiges of the destroyed nest can still be seen near the corner of Mariner and Regatta drives where benches allow residents to pause and take in the serenity of Lake Jacqueline. South Shores resident Kelle Clarke, who moved into the area about three years ago with her husband, was pushing their daughter, Lilly, in a stroller and stopped beside another nest where a swan sat on her eggs. Clarke said the killing of the animals came as a shock, saying it was a “heartbreaking act that affected the whole community. … Someone left an angel statue where the nest had been.”
A man who did not want to be identified said that after the adult swan was killed, its mate swam around and around, calling out for its partner.
“They mate for life, you know,” he said.
To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email email@example.com or call 702-387-2949.