District attorney’s office reviewing owl killings


April 23, 2011 7:58 AM

The Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office has received a report from state Fish and Game on the case of two 17-year-olds accused of killing four young barn owls that nested in hay bales the boys were delivering to a Lompoc animal sanctuary.
Jerry McBeth, a senior deputy district attorney in Lompoc, said his office is waiting for a formal referral of the matter from the county Probation Department, which, by law, handles juvenile cases.
State law prohibits justice officials from disclosing, except in rare cases, the names of juvenile offenders, any charges against them and any punishment they might receive. In addition, court hearings and files involving juveniles, unless those charged as adults, are not handled in open court like criminal cases involving adults.
“Generally speaking, juvenile matters are closed to the public,” said Mr. McBeth. “If someone is a victim of a crime, there are accommodations for those people to attend a juvenile hearing that involves the victim.”
It’s not clear, in the case of the barn owls, whether any person could be considered a victim of a crime.
The Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office is barred from disclosing the names of the teenagers in the barn owls case.
But the News-Press has confirmed they are Hunter Jacobsen, whose family owns the hay company and Lonny Tomasini, who turned 18 on Thursday. Both are skilled marksmen, recognized by shooting clubs for their abilities.
Both are also avid hunters. Their Facebook and MySpace pages (before being taken down in the wake of the owl incident) featured photos of them with a variety of kills large and small.
Hunter’s stepmother, Carla Jacobsen, told the News-Press the boys acted out of mercy at the Sheltering Oak Sanctuary April 6, killing the owls, whom they said were injured, with quick blows from a two-by-four to put them out of their misery.
But the investigating Fish and Game warden, Lt. James Solis, told the paper last week: “I didn’t see any evidence that this was a mercy killing.”
“But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a mercy killing,” he added.
Thea DiNuzzo, who with her husband, Tony DiNuzzo, witnessed the killings, doubt the mercy claim. She told the News-Press earlier they saw the boys throw rocks at the owls and hit them repeatedly with the two-by-four.
Barn owls are considered nongame birds, the killing of which could be considered a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and six months behind bars.
But whether the teenagers in this case would even be cited is not a matter of public record.
“The legislature has set the procedures on what can be released in juvenile cases,” said Mr. McBeth.
“Our hands are tied on this.”

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