Roosters missing after cockfighting bust

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Bakersfield, CA

Remember that huge cockfighting ring busted in Bakersfield in November? Scores of participants fled the scene when authorities showed up. As for the roosters, they were supposed to be cared for at the site, but they've apparently flown the coop.

At the time of the investigation, the property owner where the cockfighting operation was being held was court ordered to keep and maintain the birds during the investigation. Yet when deputies showed up a day later the birds were missing.

It was the largest cockfighting operation Sheriff's deputies ever busted. 300 live birds were found along with ten dead ones. Also, $10,000 was seized and five people were cited for animal cruelty.

Yet months later no charges have been filed, the birds have gone missing and now a strange twist. When we went to the property we didn't find empty cages. In fact, they were full of birds. Yet Sheriff's officials said these aren't the right ones.

"The day after the search warrant was served Animal Control responded out to the property to check on the birds and found that the birds had been removed from the property," said Ray Pruitt, Sheriff's spokesperson.

It is still unclear who stole the fowl and why.

"Possibly some of the individuals who owned some of the birds came back and took the birds from the property. At this point, we don't know," said Pruitt.

And why haven't the suspects been charged yet?

"At this point the case is with the DA's office" said Pruitt.

But when we spoke to the District Attorney's office we got this response. "You're going to have to talk to law enforcement about that. Until your reporter contacted me 45 minutes ago I had no knowledge of this case," said Supervising Deputy District Attorney, Michael Yraceburn.

So, now there is also missing paperwork. If it all gets sorted out, how will missing evidence [birds] affect this case?

"Each case has to be weighed by the evidence that is gathered by law enforcement so I can't make a judgment on what the strength of the evidence is," said Yraceburn.

Yet Sheriff's officials said even without the birds they have enough enough evidence to move the case forward.

"We wouldn't be in a position to take 300 birds in a courtroom to present as evidence in any case, so the birds were identified, photographed and there is still evidenciary value," said Yraceburn.

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