2 suspects in bird-killings kept in jail
Published in the Asbury Park Press 7/11/03
By A. SCOTT FERGUSON
TOMS RIVER BUREAU
TOMS RIVER -- A state Superior Court judge yesterday ordered that two teenagers accused of killing several exotic birds at a Lacey zoo remain in the Ocean County Jail until they can be transferred to a drug-treatment facility.
After reviewing medical and other reports, Judge Edward J. Turnbach told Matthew Ronneberg and Thomas Cavanaugh, both 18 and from Lacey's Forked River section, that they would pose a danger to the community if they were released without first being given in-patient drug treatment.
"If there is a program that has a bed and is willing to accept you, I can order you released on your own recognizance and have you transferred straight from the jail to the program," Turnbach told the two yesterday. "If you leave or fail to comply with the rules, you will automatically be returned to jail. It's up to you."
Ronneberg and Cavanaugh are jailed in lieu of $114,000 bail each.
They and Matthew Mercuro, also 18, of Waretown, were charged with killing two rheas, three emus and three ducks at the Popcorn Park Zoo on May 19. They're also charged with setting a fire and breaking a church's windows in Manchester on the same day and killing a goose in a county park on May 17.
Earlier this week, Mercuro was released after his parents posted $50,000 bail. He will also attend a drug-treatment program.
After the hearing, Cavanaugh's mother, Cheryl Cavanaugh, said she hoped to have her son in a treatment program in a month's time. She was joined at the hearing by her daughter, Jessica, and Thomas Cavanaugh's fiancee, Desiree Burns.
"He wants to get out, he wants to do more with his life, and he's got a baby coming," Cheryl Cavanaugh said. "We have a nice, close family for him to get support from, and we have faith that it will be all right."
Cheryl and Jessica Cavanaugh both said their lives have been disrupted by what's happened, and they also said that the media has blown the case out of proportion.
Jessica Cavanaugh, 19, said she sometimes gets strange looks from people because of what her brother has been charged with. But other people lend their support, she said.
"At work, they hear on the radio what's going on, but they all come up to me and ask about him and how he's doing," Jessica Cavanaugh said. "They're nice about it."
A. Scott Ferguson: (732) 557-5740 firstname.lastname@example.org