Local resident and bird sanctuary founder Heidi Fleiss heaped high praise upon the Nye County Sheriff’s Office after a recent investigation led to the reunion with her beloved Macaw Parrot, “Miller.”
Upon speaking to the Pahrump Valley Times last week, Fleiss said she put up a $10,000 reward for the safe return of Miller, whom she has owned for more than a decade.
When no information came forward days after offering the reward, Fleiss’ worst fears came to mind, as she assumed Miller was possibly killed by a coyote somewhere at her 40-acre sanctuary on the far north end of Pahrump.
However, after the story appeared in the Wednesday, March 31 edition of the Pahrump Valley Times, Fleiss said she received a tip from an individual who read the story and said they knew where Miller was located.
As a result, she then contacted the Nye County Sheriff’s Office to report that Miller had been taken from her residence.
Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael Connelly spoke to Fleiss via phone call.
“Fleiss explained to me that the macaw will not fly and would not leave her residence,” Connelly’s report noted. “Fleiss stated that she checked the inside and outside of the residence for approximately 30 minutes, but she was unable to locate the bird. I asked how much the bird was worth, and she stated approximately $5,000 to $8,000 dollars.”
Additionally, Fleiss provided Connelly with the phone number of the unknown male who provided the tip to Miller’s whereabouts, which according to Fleiss, was a residence behind Walmart where Fleiss accompanied deputies and detectives in her effort to retrieve Miller.
While at the residence, deputies and detectives began their investigation by speaking to a female identified as Lisa Huggins.
“Fleiss was escorted inside the residence, and then exited the residence carrying a bird on her arm and she positively identified the bird was hers,” Connelly’s report stated. “I began speaking with Huggins, who stated she found the bird at Petrack Park on Sunday, March 28, between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Huggins stated that she saw the bird to be stuck in the fence and she took the bird home. I advised Huggins that the bird was unable to fly and the bird would not leave Fleiss’ residence.”
Fleiss said that Huggins was a former employee at the sanctuary, who was recently terminated.
“She was fired last week and I think that she sent someone over here to take Miller,” she said. “They had him in the cage in a room, and he got really excited when he saw me, and he said his name, ‘Miller.’ He was just so, so happy to see me again.”
Taken into custody
Connelly’s report also noted that due to the totality of circumstances and possession of the bird, Huggins was placed under arrest on one count of suspicion of buying, receiving or possessing stolen property.
While he was waiting for a unit to transport Huggins, Connelly noted that a white male arrived on scene.
“I asked if he assisted Huggins at Petrack Park, and he stated that it never happened and Huggins was lying,” Connelly’s report stated.
Beefing up security
As a result of the entire ordeal, Fleiss also noted that she’s in the process of making some security changes at the sanctuary.
“Cameras are going in,” she said. “Even though I can’t own a gun, somebody else here can. I don’t want anybody coming up here again, so I will seek out every precaution to prevent this from happening again. I have a company installing everything. Before this happened, when people would contact me, I’d say sure, come on by, but now this whole experience is making me second-guess everything, and I don’t want to be like that. I want people to be able to see them flying around and see that there’s a different way to keep them instead of sticking them in a cage, and letting them sit there until they die. That’s what my whole life is dedicated to now.”
Fleiss applauded the efforts of investigators.
“I also want to thank the Nye County Sheriff’s Office. I never thought that I would say this, but they were exceptional, they were understanding and efficient. They were very effective and it was so nice to have that experience with them. I also want to thank the Pahrump Valley Times for their reporting, and the community for looking out for my birds.”
As of press time on Thursday, April 1, Huggins was still custody at the Nye County Detention Center, where her bail stands at $5,000.
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at email@example.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes