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Bend teens arrested in Reptile Zone burglary, animals returned; owner grateful but angry, frustrated

Jun 04, 2023

(Update: Adding video, comments by business owner)

Jeff Jensen hurt by actions of customers turned friends: 'You guys stabbed me in the back'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – With the help of the community, a 17-year-old Bend resident and his 18-year-old girlfriend have been arrested in last month's burglary of The Reptile Zone in northeast Bend and the stolen animals have been recovered, police said Wednesday.

Security video on Nov. 28 showed two people wearing masks had removed an air conditioning unit from a window at The Reptile Zone in the 500 block of NE Greenwood Avenue and entered the business overnight, police Communications Manager Sheila Miller said.

They stole three snakes, two frogs, a turtle, the business’s tip jar and other merchandize, including cages. Miller said an estimate of the stolen and damaged property topped $3,000.

“Community assistance and an investigation led Bend Police to identify a 17-year-old Bend resident as a suspect in the burglary,” Miller said in a news release.

Officers on Tuesday contacted the teen at his home in the 1200 block of Northwest Lexington Avenue, Miller said.

“The 17-year-old admitted that he and his girlfriend … 18, had burglarized the business and stolen the animals,” she added.

The case was broken when a family member of the suspect saw a Facebook post and recognized the stolen turtle.

Both teens are are charged with first-degree theft and second-degree burglary, Miller said. The 18-year-old was taken to the Deschutes County Jail and the male was booked into the county’s Juvenile Detention Center.

The stolen reptiles and merchandize were found in the couple’s home and were recovered and released to the business owner.

Reptile Zone owner Jeff Jensen said he's grateful for all the community support and the return of his animals and merchandise, but voiced frustration and anger that two of his customers would do such a thing.

Since the theft, he said, “People would just come in and give me hugs randomly. A lady says, 'I really don't like reptiles at all. I saw you on the news. I just had to come in and tell you that I'm praying for you and rooting for you,' And she left. But it's been that kind of support that has gotten me through this, my wife and I.”

Supporters also set up two fundraising accounts for the store and a woman stopped by to given Jenson an envelope with $1,000 in it.

That close relationship with his customers is what made the theft feel like a betrayal for Jensen, who said he had put on a reptile show for the suspect's 10th birthday party.

“I was hurt, because they were customers of mine," he said. "They'd been customers for a little while. And I told them -- like a lot of stores, I've said this before: My customers start out as buying, purchasing customers, and they end up as friends. And you guys stabbed me in the back. And it hurts. And the whole time that I was saying that, the father of the young lady who was standing next to her, furious - his face was red. Once I was done talking, he just let loose on him.”

Jensen said some of the recovered reptiles were not in good condition, so he's having them recover out of the public eye, before they return to the shop displays. The stolen cases also were damaged, he said.

But above all, Jensen said he wants to thank the thousands of people who shared his story and helped find his reptiles.

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