The goldfish tank was beloved at the daycare in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a parent said.
“That was (my son’s) favorite thing at the end of the day: saying goodbye to the goldfish,” said Patricia Liggett, a mother with a 20-month-old and 6-year-old at Discovery Child Development Center, KVIA reports.
But after three boys — 11, 12 and 13 — broke into the daycare on Saturday night and committed an act of “extreme” animal cruelty, three of the facility’s pet goldfish are gone for good, according to Las Cruces police.
The boys are accused of scooping the fish out of the tank and then “mutiliating” them. Two of the fish were stomped to death, and then their insides were smeared onto tile at the daycare. Another fish was found on a counter “smashed to death,” according to police.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The boys weren’t done there: Next they grabbed the keys to the daycare’s van and took it on a joyride, police said.
During their drive, the three boys picked up another child — this one 11 — and continued on their crime spree, according to police.
The quartet next headed to New Mexico State University’s campus, where they began tossing rocks, “busting out windows on several vehicles,” police said.
It was that leg of the crime spree that got the boys busted, according to police.
A university police officer spotted the stolen van driving on Union Avenue as the officer investigated the string of reported vandalism incidents, according to police. During a traffic stop around midnight, that officer decided the boys were likely responsible for the vandalism and called city police to report the stolen van.
On Sunday, police charged the three boys who broke into the daycare with burglary, extreme animal cruelty, auto burglary, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and conspiracy — all of which are felonies, according to police. The boy the original trio picked up mid-crime spree faces felony charges for conspiracy and possession of a stolen vehicle, police said.
After the incident, the children were returned to their parents, according to police. Their identities were not released because they are juveniles.
Police said the boys could face more charges in connection with the university vandalism.
Liggett, the mother with two children at the daycare, said the alleged animal cruelty disturbed her.
“This is supposed to be a really safe environment,” she said of the facility, according to KVIA.