Cockatoo's Defense of Owner

Helps to Convict His Killer

Looking to upgrade your home security system with a little animal ferocity? Forget pit bulls -- try a cockatoo.

That was one possible lesson from a Dallas trial that ended Tuesday with a murder conviction, thanks in large part to DNA evidence furnished with the help of the victim's protective bird.

As prosecutors described it, Kevin Butler's white-crested cockatoo swooped down on one of two men who attacked Butler, 48, with knives in his home on Christmas Eve 2001. Butler was stabbed to death, but the bird's insistent pecking bloodied one of the assailant's heads. Daniel Torres, 30, then wiped the blood from his scalp and touched a light switch, leaving the DNA police used to arrest him, prosecutors said.

The genetic data apparently sealed the deal for the jury, which convicted Torres of capital murder and sentenced him to life in prison. The other alleged attacker, Johnny Serna, 22, a former employee of Butler's swimming pool company, is expected to face similar charges.

The 18-inch cockatoo, named Bird for basketball legend Larry Bird, "stayed there valiantly and fought," to the end, prosecutor George West said. At the crime scene, police found Bird's lifeless, feathered body stabbed with a fork.

Cockatoos bond with their owners like mates and will protect them at all costs, West said. "Torres admitted that he had to fight the bird over and over," he said. "That bird was more courageous than many a wife would have been."

-- Lee Hockstader

A cockatoo named "Bird" flew to owner Kevin Butler's defense and helped create evidence that led police to his attackers.Kevin Butler was murdered despite his pet cockatoo's efforts to stop his assailants.Daniel Torres's murder conviction was based partly on DNA evidence from battling the bird.