It has been over a year since the attempted theft of 2 small Tennessee fainting goats from the agricultural department’s barn at Fallbrook High School in northern San Diego County, CA. Duct tape wrapped around its nose to stop its cries caused one of the goats to die.
The attempted abduction and resultant death of the small black-and-white farm animal may not be fodder for a televised CSI drama, but San Diego County sheriffs’ use of forensics to identify the suspect demonstrates the expansion of modern technology to solve crimes against animals, as well as humans.
On Tuesday, San Diego County sheriff's deputies introduced DNA evidence taken from the duct tape binding the animals to link a Temecula man, Bryce Zubicki, 23, to the crime, and, he pleaded guilty to grand theft of an animal, officials announced.
On June 15, 2011, at about 5:00 a.m., a Fallbrook High School security guard saw an intruder in the livestock pen with the two goats that belonged to one of the students. The man had broken into the school’s barn and duct-taped the legs and snouts of two Tennessee fainting goats, according to Sgt. Jose Montion of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
The thief quickly ran from the scene, leaving the goats. The guard removed the tape, but one of the animals already had suffocated, the North County Times reported. . A necropsy of the goat later revealed it was asphyxiated by the tape.
The security guard could give only a vague description of the intruder and the case went cold. However, the San Diego County sheriff's crime lab did not give up. Technicians developed the DNA profile of the suspect using genetic material found on the duct tape, Sheriff’s Detective Tom Vrabel said Wednesday. The lab then sent the profile to the California Department of Justice, which added it to a DNA database. In December 2011, the Sheriff's Department was notified that the DNA matched that of Bryce Zubicki, 23, of Temecula, in adjoining Riverside County.
The Sheriff’s Department got a felony warrant for his arrest but could not immediately find Zubicki. In March they arrested him in San Diego County, and he later pleaded “not guilty” to felony charges of commercial burglary, attempted grand theft of livestock, and cruelty to animals. He was released from the Vista Detention Center on $50,000 bail.
The motive for the theft is unclear. At first there was widespread speculation that the theft was a senior prank gone wrong, but police found that Zubicki had never been a student at the school.
Detective Tom. Vrabel said he learned during the investigation that Zubicki’s girlfriend kept farm animals as pets, and he suspects Zubicki intended the Tennessee fainting goats as a gift to her. “They’re cute,” Vrabel told PE.com.
As a result of his guilty plea, Bryce Zubicki is scheduled to be sentenced October 17 in San Diego Superior Court for grand theft of an animal. The theft charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in state prison.
Fainting goats are named for a condition which causes their muscles to go through prolonged contractions when the animals are startled, according to the America Livestock Breeds Conservancy. This can cause the goat fall down but they don’t truly faint.