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Teens killed and ate Faye, a N.Y. village’s cherished swan, police say



Panic struck the residents of Manlius, N.Y., over Memorial Day weekend when Faye disappeared. Dread settled in as the minutes turned to hours, with no sign of the village’s beloved swan and unofficial mascot. And then, heartbreak hit when they found out what had happened.

In the dead of night on Saturday, three teenagers had hopped the fence, pinned Faye down and killed her. They then took her body to the home of one of their relatives, where she was cooked and eaten.

The three teenagers were arrested Tuesday and charged with trespassing, grand larceny, criminal mischief and conspiracy, Manlius police Sgt. Kenneth Hatter said. The two juveniles, ages 16 and 17, were released to their parents. An 18-year-old Syracuse man was released after promising to return for future court dates, the first of which is scheduled for June 15.

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Michael Bean, who donated Faye to Manlius and has taken care of her ever since, told The Washington Post that he was the first person to notice she had disappeared when he checked on her midmorning on Memorial Day. When he didn’t spot her initially, he checked under “every single bush” around the pond. She was nowhere to be found.

“I knew something was very wrong,” said Bean, 57, who was once dubbed “the swan guru.”


Eventually, police started an investigation and, on Monday night, publicly announced the disappearance of Faye and her babies while asking for any information about what had happened to them.

At some point, Hatter said people reported that they’d seen a pair of baby swans, or cygnets, at a discount store in Syracuse, which is about a 15-minute drive from Manlius. Armed with a search warrant, police found the two cygnets in the store. That led them to a home in Syracuse, where they discovered the other two babies and started piecing together what had happened over the previous three days.

Police believe the three teens hopped the fence encircling Goose Lake Park around 12:20 a.m. to go “hunting” at the Manlius Swan Pond. Two of them allegedly pinned down Faye, who was nesting near the pond. They killed her, took her body and abducted the four cygnets, leaving behind Faye’s longtime mate, Manny, according to police. They then allegedly brought Faye’s body to the home of one of the teenagers, where the swan was prepared, cooked and eaten.

The teens, whom Hatter described as neighborhood friends and high school classmates, didn’t know they had killed a swan, let alone understand her importance to the Manlius community, Hatter said. Instead, they believed she was “a very large duck.” Nevertheless, they didn’t kill her because they were hungry, he said.

“It wasn’t because they were lacking in food,” Hatter said Wednesday at a news conference. “They were hunting, is what they told us.”

The teens didn’t hurt the cygnets, nor did they plan to, Hatter said. For some reason, they took two of them to the discount store and kept the others at one of the juveniles’ homes, intending to raise them as pets.

All of the cygnets were reunited and turned over to the biologist that the village contracts to care for its swans, Hatter said. Officials hope to reunite them with their father, Manny, in several weeks when they’re old enough to fend for themselves.


Swans have been a part of Manlius’s identity since 1905, when they first came to the village. Banners that drape light posts feature an image of a swan, businesses work “swan” into their names or incorporate the birds into their logos, and artisans churn out all manner of swan-related wares. The village’s Christmas parade features a 10-foot-tall swan float.

Manny and Faye were the village’s most recent swan power couple, courtesy of Bean. He owned and cared for Faye’s parents and, when they were eaten by a coyote who dug under his fence, Bean incubated the dead mother’s eggs. Only one hatched — Faye, whom Bean raised as a pet.

“So she was extremely tame. She would come right up to anybody,” he said, comparing her behavior to that of a dog.

Knowing she required a lot of space and fearing she would suffer her parents’ fate if she stayed with him, Bean donated Faye to Manlius. He simultaneously arranged for someone else to give the village a male swan — Manny.

“They have a huge pond. It’s in the middle of the center of the village,” Bean said. “Everybody gets a lot of enjoyment out of them.”

And so it went with Faye, who spent the next 15 years roving the pond, laying eggs and leading a caravan of cygnets each spring as Manny protected them. All the while, the swans were winning the hearts of Manlius residents and tourists.

Manlius native Laurie Venditti said she would occasionally suffer a jolt of fear when she counted fewer cygnets than previous visits, only to watch them emerge from hiding and realize they had been riding on their mother’s back, tucked under the protection of her wings.


“The community here has created a very strong bond with Faye and Manny,” Venditti said.

Venditti, 63, said she felt “absolute, pure disgust” when she heard Faye had been killed and eaten. As a child, Venditti went with her older brothers to the pond to marvel at the swans. In high school and early adulthood, she went on dates at the restaurant overlooking the pond, followed by romantic strolls around it when dinner was over. And since returning to her hometown in 2009, Venditti has watched her great-nephews and great-nieces replicate what she did 60 years ago: get ice cream cones from a neighborhood shop before oohing and awing at the swans.

“I’m a grandaunt having that feeling of being able to see the joy and awe in their faces,” she said.

Faye’s death will not end that legacy, Mayor Paul Whorrall said Wednesday at the news conference. He and other officials plan to get state approval to ensure it remains one of the few places with a permit to breed swans in New York.

“They’ve been ours forever, and we will continue,” Whorrall said. “The public needs to know this is not ending.”

Source: Washington Post


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