Three students have been suspended from classes and could face criminal charges after the carcass of a Jarrettsville couple's pet goat was discovered in an outdoor fountain at North Harford High School, authorities said yesterday.
"A high school prank apparently went awry," said Sgt. Edward Hopkins, a sheriff's department spokesman. Sheriff's deputies were preparing juvenile charges of animal cruelty, theft and malicious destruction of property, he said.
Harford County Superintendent Ray R. Keech may take further disciplinary action against the three 17-year-old seniors, who were suspended Wednesday, according to Donald R. Morrison, a school department spokesman.
Students at North Harford High were shocked at the animal's killing. Jane Barbacane, a ninth-grader, said she happened to look out a classroom window and saw maintenance workers carrying the animal away Tuesday.
"People thought it was really gross and sick," she said.
The goat, a 9-year-old pet of Richard and Ellen Wischhusen of the 1400 block of North Bend Road in Jarrettsville, was reported stolen Monday night.
Mrs. Wischhusen said her husband discovered the goat was missing when he went to its stable to feed it about 10 p.m.
"Somehow, during the theft, the goat was struck in the head with an ax, but the investigating deputy does not believe they intended to kill the goat," Sergeant Hopkins said.
The goat died from a single blow to the head.
"We were very concerned about how it died, that kids could be so cruel," Mrs. Wischhusen said.
The goat was found the next morning in a fountain near the athletic fields at the rear of the school on Route 165 near Bush's Corner.
"Whatever explanation they may have given is confidential," he said, because statements made by juveniles in a criminal case are not public record.
If the value of the goat is appraised at more than $300, the students could be charged with a felony, he added.
"We don't expect restitution," Mrs. Wischhusen said.