- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - Forrest County District Attorney Patricia Burchell told the Hattiesburg American (https://hatne.ws/1DYXNLD) that she will ask a grand jury to indict as many as nine college students involved in the kidnapping of a flamingo from the Hattiesburg Zoo.

Devin Nottis, 19, of Pascagoula was arrested Oct. 8 in connection with the theft and subsequent deaths of two flamingos from the zoo. A University of Southern Mississippi freshman, he was charged with grand larceny, two counts of animal cruelty and trespassing. He remains free on $17,300 bond.

Police have said conspiracy charges against others are possible.

Nottis took a female flamingo from the zoo about 1:15 a.m. Oct. 7 during a fraternity pledge prank, police have said. The bird was found injured about 8:30 a.m. that same day on the Longleaf Trace and had to be euthanized due to the extent of its injuries.

A second flamingo - the male mate of the female - also died, said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which oversees zoo operations. It was found dead in the holding area the morning of Oct. 8 with scrapes on its body. A necropsy was performed and gross internal injuries were discovered.

Joe Paul, USM’s vice president for student affairs, said Nottis and the fraternity remain suspended.

“We’re waiting to see what the grand jury will do,” he said.

Immediately after Nottis’ arrest, Paul said any additional students found to be involved in this incident would be disciplined by the university.

The exhibit had 21 flamingos when it opened in April 13, and now has 17. Two died of natural causes. Taylor said zoo officials are still looking for replacement flamingos. The original birds were purchased from Zoo Atlanta in December 2012, but Taylor said that zoo doesn’t have any extra birds.

Taylor said officials are looking at a few other possibilities, but the Hattiesburg Zoo may have better success in the spring after hatchings and when the chicks begin to stabilize and grow.

To date, $5,147.85 has been donated to the zoo to help replace the flamingos.

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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