Darin Nelson
Darin Nelson
May 7, 2014

A former Vail City Councilman allegedly stole a resident's pet duck early Sunday morning, broke its neck and stashed its lifeless body in a refrigerator among other food.

"I assumed they were going to eat it," said Todd Thomas, the duck's owner who tracked down the animal the night it was allegedly taken from his backyard in the 300 block of Second Avenue.

Thomas, 45, was asleep Sunday morning when his dog barked and barked and woke him about 2 a.m., Thomas said in a telephone interview today. He heard a man's voice outside the house and some commotion in the large, chicken-wired pen that for six years had held his two pet ducks just outside his bedroom window in the town of about 440, which is about 18 miles west of Carroll.

Thomas said he stepped out in his socks, saw that a section of the pen's fence had been flattened and glanced across a street, where he saw a man walking with something under his arm. Thomas assumed it was a six-pack of beer.

He didn't know at the time that his female duck was missing. The animals hunker down together at night to sleep, sometimes in a small shed in the pen.

"So right away - I'm still in my socks - I trotted over there," Thomas said of his encounter with former two-term councilman Darin Nelson.

Nelson, 36, claimed he knew nothing of the commotion and trampled fence and said he was walking from Homer's Bar and Grill to a friend's house nearby, Thomas said.

So Thomas returned to the duck pen with a flashlight and discovered one duck was missing. He went to the friend's house a couple of blocks away and confronted Nelson again.

"Where's my duck?" Thomas asked repeatedly.

Nelson eventually invited Thomas inside the friend's house to talk and later told Thomas to check the refrigerator.

"He had just tossed it in there, right on the shelf. It was next to regular food," Thomas said. "He said he hates animals."

Thomas reported the incident to the Crawford County Sheriff's Office, and a deputy arrested Nelson for trespassing and criminal mischief. Both charges are simple misdemeanors - because the deputy's estimated value of the duck was less than $200 - and are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and fines of up to $625.

Nelson, whose second term on the City Council ended Jan. 1, declined to discuss the incident today.

"I ain't supposed to say anything about it," he said.

Nelson paid a $300 cash bond to be released from jail, and he is set to appear in court on Friday, according to online court records.

Thomas said his three grandchildren were in town for a weekend visit at the time of the alleged duck theft. They fed the duck dandelions the day before.

Thomas broke the news to the children - who range in age from 6 to 10 - after Sunday breakfast.

"A man came and killed momma duck," Thomas told them. "The oldest started crying right away."

Thomas and his grandchildren buried the duck near the pen and put a solar-powered light, a rock and a ceramic duck there as a memorial.

Thomas said he doesn't know what prompted Nelson to allegedly steal and kill the duck.

"We have an idiot drunk in town, I guess," Thomas said.