UPDATE (May 7, 2016 1:50 p.m.): Although the investigation on animal abuse allegations is ongoing, Steven Koressel and Richard “Brent” Melbye have been reinstated to the lacrosse team in time for the national championships, said university spokesperson Mary Platt.
“Because the official investigation can take several weeks or even months, the Chapman coach made the determination that in the absence of a concrete finding, a two-week suspension from the team for the two young men – during which both missed the (Southwestern Lacrosse Conference) championship playoffs – was appropriate,” Platt wrote.
Platt said that the athletics department and the lacrosse coach have imposed additional sanctions on the men and that the university will impose sanctions once the investigation is complete.
Tim the turkey is back at Orange High School and was seen at the high school’s Farm Fest May 7.
The two members of Chapman’s undefeated lacrosse team arrested April 18 in connection with the theft and abuse of Tim the turkey from Orange High School have been suspended from their team by the coach, said Mary Platt, the university spokesperson.
Junior Richard “Brent” Melbye and senior Steven Koressel will not be allowed to play in today’s Southwestern Lacrosse Conference playoffs, Platt said.
Head Coach Dallas Hartley was contacted on various occasions regarding Melbye and Koressel’s status on the team but never responded. Koressel, Melbye and all 36 members of the lacrosse team were also contacted. Six lacrosse players said they did not want to comment and the rest did not respond.
Despite being suspended from the team by their coach, the students were not suspended by the Office of the Dean, said Jerry Price, vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students. Platt said any further disciplinary actions by the university will depend on the results of the ongoing police investigation.
Patti Williams, an agriculture teacher at the high school, discovered that Tim was missing at 7 a.m. April 17. Orange County Animal Control notified her that it had found the turkey around 4:30 p.m., Williams said.
“He was overstressed, hot, his tail feathers had been broken at clumps, he had a substance at the top of his head and on his feet and he had something drying all over him,” Williams said. “I brought him back to school and I gave him a bath to cool him off and then I looked him over and found some scratches and missing feathers and all of that. I smelled beer on him.”
The turkey’s feet were cut up and it had scratches on its head, Williams said. She also believes that Tim might have a broken toe or foot.
“As the day went by (on April 18), his condition declined, his chest became very swollen,” Williams said. “His breathing – you could hear fluid in his air sac, so listening to him breath sounds like someone that has pneumonia.”
Tim was taken to a veterinary hospital where he is still was under close observation, Williams wrote in an email.
“He has several injuries resulting from the torture he went through,” Williams said. “We all hope he can pull through this.”
Williams said Tim has not gotten any worse but also isn’t getting any better.
Melbye and Koressel were released from Orange County jail at 12:54 a.m. and 12:55 a.m. April 19, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s arrest records. The students were released without bail on the condition that they sign a written statement saying they will attend their court dates.
The case is still under investigation and charges have not yet been filed, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The students will also be held accountable by the university through the Student Conduct Code, said Mary Platt, university spokesperson.
“The university will not tolerate any instances of theft, animal abuse or cruelty, is appalled by this behavior, and takes this issue extremely seriously,” she wrote in a statement.
Steven Olveda, Chapman’s sports information director, said the Student Affairs Office is handling the issue.
“We are very aware of this situation and have been working with the Orange Police (Department) who are investigating,” the office wrote in a statement. “While the reports in the news are distressing, please understand that we ultimately will be guided by what the police determine actually occurred. It is too early to know whether their investigation findings will be consistent with what is being reported in the media. If it is determined Chapman students harmed the animal – or by their negligence allowed the animal to be harmed – we will respond appropriately.”
Roxi Fyad, the Orange County District Attorney’s spokesperson, said that the report of this incident had not made it to her office yet and remains under police investigation.
Price said that although the university does not get involved in every off-campus incident, it does get involved in incidents that affect the university’s efforts to be better neighbors.
Price said that the university has to rely on the police’s investigation or charges and then decide if action by the university is necessary.
“There are provisions in the code of conduct that some of the sanctions include inability to represent the university,” Price said. “We would never single out athletes, but we do have a provision that says you are not permitted to represent the university in any type of leadership responsibility, so you couldn’t be the president of an organization, you couldn’t be a tour guide, you couldn’t be an ambassador, you couldn’t be an athlete.”
Any disciplinary action taken by the university is confidential because of federal regulations.
“While whatever happens with the police is public records, what happens on campus is not,” he said. “So for people waiting to see exactly what we do, they’re going to find out that unfortunately that is not going to be possible.”
The university’s senior staff has received many emails about this situation from concerned Orange residents, Price said.
Jim Karras, who has lived near Chapman for 16 years and has been vocal about the university’s expansion at recent City Council meetings, said his heart goes out to Williams and her students.
“Those children who are participating in the Future Farmers of America program there, I can just imagine how upset they were when they heard the news of Tim the turkey,” Karras said. “It’s just a further example of disrespect of Orange that appeared to involved Chapman students.”
Karras said that he does not think that this is representative of all Chapman students.
“But with all of the recent accounts of events involving the types of disrespectful activities involving student gatherings, I think it is indicative of a lack of leadership by the Chapman University administration in providing adequate facilities for student social activities outside of the classroom, which are things that are customarily offered by other prominent universities in more of an on-campus setting,” Karras said.
He said that this issue could be resolved by having additional on-campus housing, university-run off-campus housing, a Greek row or an on-campus pub.
Adam Duberstein, a resident of Orange and the founder of Respect Orange, has been trying to help mend the relationship between students and residents through the idea of mutual respect.
“Let’s just say it has been less than ideal,” Duberstein wrote in an email. “Respect Orange has been working to build bridges between the community and Chapman students. Unfortunately, this has burned some of those bridges and will slow the process.”
Respect Orange is raising money for the Future Farmers of America program at Orange High School, which Tim the turkey is a part of. Respect Orange is selling shirts, totes and stickers with their logo to benefit the program.
“As a community, Respect Orange thinks we should do the same and wants to help raise money for the (Orange High School) program and to start building bridges between Orange residents (animals included), Chapman University and Chapman administration,” Duberstein wrote in an email.
This story was originally published April 18, 2016 at 10:09 p.m. and has been updated as new information becomes available.
CORRECTION (April 27, 2016 9:27 p.m.): A quote was misattributed to Steven Olveda, Chapman’s sports information director. The quote was provided by Olveda but was written by the Student Affairs Office.