Suspect in theft of Dallas Zoo tamarin monkeys is indicted on felony burglary charges

Editor’s Note: (February 9, 2024): Since this story was published, prosecutors have asked for the dismissal of six misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against Davion Irvin, saying he has been in custody longer than any possible sentence for those charges. Two felony charges of burglary of a building are pending and he is still incarcerated, records show. Irvin’s case is on hold indefinitely after he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial last year.

The man who investigators say is connected to a string of unusual animal habitat tamperings at the Dallas Zoo – including the alleged theft of two tamarin monkeys – was indicted Tuesday on felony burglary charges, court records show.

Davion Irvin, 24, was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of burglary to a building, the records show. Dallas police have said the charges relate to the suspected theft in late January of the tamarin monkeys and the mid-January disappearance of a clouded leopard from its enclosure after its fence had been cut.

Irvin also is facing six misdemeanor counts of non-livestock animal cruelty in connection with the monkeys, according to police.

Irvin was arrested February 2, just days after police say the tamarin monkeys were intentionally taken from their zoo enclosure, which had been cut open. Two days before Irvin’s arrest, police found the monkeys unharmed in the closet of a Dallas-area home.

The indictment alleges that Irvin entered a building without the zoo’s consent on the day the monkeys disappeared and “did then and there commit a theft.”

CNN has sought comment from Irvin’s public defender.

The suspect was arrested after being spotted at The Dallas World Aquarium, where investigators “believe that he was looking to commit another crime,” a police spokesperson said in February.

Investigators also accuse Irvin of entering the Dallas Zoo in the early morning of January 13 and cutting the fence surrounding the habitat of a clouded leopard named Nova, allegedly intending to take the animal, according to arrest warrant affidavits.

Davion Irvin was indicted on two felony burglary charges, court records show. - Dallas County
Davion Irvin was indicted on two felony burglary charges, court records show. - Dallas County

Irvin allegedly told investigators he petted the leopard, but the 25-pound animal leapt too high in its enclosure, and he wasn’t able to catch the animal, according to the affidavits. He left the enclosure, but the leopard escaped through the cut he allegedly made, prompting the zoo to close to the public and conduct an hours-long search for the animal, which was found near its habitat later that day.

In the case of the snow leopard, the indictment alleges Irvin had the “intent to commit theft.”

The strange escapes were part of a series of other suspicious incidents involving animals at the zoo, including cuts made to the enclosure of some langur monkeys and the death of a vulture under “unusual” circumstances,” the zoo said.

Police said they believe Irvin is linked to the langur monkey case, but not the death of the vulture. No charges in the langur monkey case have been announced.

In response to the events, the zoo heightened its security, including installing more cameras and increasing patrols and overnight staff.

Irvin is being held in a Dallas County jail with bond set at $130,000, jail records show.

CNN’s Chris Boyette, Ashley Killough, Ed Lavandera and Vivian Kuo contributed to this report.

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