Two Bend teenagers were arrested Tuesday after a month-long investigation into a burglary at The Reptile Zone in Bend.
Someone broke into the store on Nov. 28 and stole up to $3,000 worth of inventory. It included two non-venomous snakes, a Pacman frog, several cages, two 40-gallon tanks, a tip jar with up to $60 inside and a baby rattlesnake.
“They broke into the back of my store as idiots. They walked out as felons,” Reptile Zone owner Jeff Jensen said.
The crook also destroyed a couple of surveillance cameras and cages.
Surveillance video showed the thief rummaging through cages. In the video below, the suspect is digging out a Pacman frog from its cage and placing it in another container to transport.
In another clip, the suspect appears to answer a phone call and speaks to what sounds like a female voice over speaker.
Police said Wednesday that tips from the community and an investigation led police to identify a 17-year-old boy as a suspect.
Bend Police says officers contacted the boy at his home and that the boy admitted that he and his girlfriend, identified as 18-year-old Audrey Madison Groom, had burglarized the business.
All of the animals were returned to Jensen.
When police asked Jensen to come and identify his animals, he got the chance to confront the suspects. Not only were the suspects repeat customers, Jensen also realized he had entertained at Groom’s birthday party 10 years ago in La Pine.
“Like I told the individuals that did the robbery, ‘I’m probably one of the only stores in town that has customers that turn into friends,’” Jensen said. “And because I thought you guys were in that realm, it was like a stab in the back and it hurt much.”
Jensen also said he found out the motive — saying the suspects told him that they did not agree with the conditions he kept the animals in and that they “shouldn’t be kept in tubs.”
Jensen is adamant that every animal he has is well taken care of and nothing means more to him than having them back home and safe.
While the crime may have been personal, the community outreach was so overwhelming that Jensen says the good in this town far outweighs the bad.
“I cannot believe the outpouring of love, support, compassion. Financially, I mean, I had a lady give me $1,000,” Jensen said.
Groom and the 17-year-old were arrested for first-degree theft and second-degree burglary. Groom was taken to the Deschutes County Jail while the boy was booked into the Deschutes County Juvenile Detention Center.