Assignment: Jade The Parrot

This is a somewhat complicated story from which you will have to carefully extract the latest information (hint) for your lead. But be creative since this is a quirky, human-interest story and a traditional, straight-news lead is not warranted here. Be as creative as possible. Have fun with this but don’t lose sight of the facts or the 5W’s.

Read over the notes several times before you decide how to write your lead, then be sure to craft a complete news story with the salient details that make this so interesting. 


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Assignment: Jade The Parrot

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  • There’s a parrot named Jade that is a ward of the state of Florida and lives in a South Florida foster home.  Jade is a tropical, brilliantly colored parrot. He eats mangoes, and can sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider."   He’s there because he is being fought over in court. 
  • A Johnston, Rhode Island, family is fighting for custody of Jade. They say the parrot belonged to a member of their family, Joan Jacobs who was allegedly murdered by her husband, Gordon. 
  • The parrot had been living in a gated golf course community with Joan and Gordon Jacobs who moved to Florida from Rhode Island in 1994. In April Jacobs was arrested and charged with allegedly killing his wife.
  • Gordon Jacobs is a 60-year-old jewelry dealer. He told police that he "lost it" in an argument over money, and killed his wife Joan. He is in a Palm Beach County jail, awaiting trial for murder.
  • From jail, the husband says Jade is his. Joan Jacobs’s family says the parent belonged to Joan. It was a gift from her husband who is awaiting trial for her murder.
  • The bird is in Gordon Jacobs's name, and the county will not release it without his permission. His attorney says that won't happen. So Jade remains a ward of Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control.
  • But Joan Jacob’s family wants the bird. They’re fighting for it in court. 
  • In a recent interview they reminisced over scrapbooks, Italian food, wearing dressy hats in honor of her style. They decided they wanted Jade, with a familiar voice. The Rhode Island family says the bird mimics the voice of Joan. 
  • Lori Paolino, Joan's sister, explains that, to her family, the parrot sounds just like Joan. Paolino insists the bird, an adult male which has a flashy, spikey coat of green, yellow, and blue, even exhibits a trace of a Rhode Island accent.
  • Thomas J. Dougherty, a lawyer in West Palm Beach, says Jacobs, a hobbyist who dabbled in orchids and exotic birds, bred and raised Jade himself. "The bird is not part of Joan's estate."
  • Joan Jacobs's first cousin, Joseph DeAngelis, a Providence lawyer and former speaker of the Rhode Island House, has sent two letters to Dougherty, requesting that Jade be allowed to live in Johnston. DeAngelis said last week that he plans to file a court motion. "The bird was Joan's. It was a gift from her husband."
  • When Joan would phone her family, Paolino recalls, she would put Jade on the line. "I would think it was her; she would trick me. The bird says things she used to say.
  • "My sister used to give it fruit," she says. "Meat, too. He used to sit on her shoulder. He would kiss her, and say things like, heyyyyy . . . She taught him to sing -- 'Mama's little baby loves shortnin' bread.' "
  • Delara Kheradi, Joan's 27-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, says, "I only want the bird because it has my mom's voice. I don't know why they won't let us have it."
  • Gordon Jacobs was arrested on April 18 at the couple's house at the Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach. He and Joan, who was 50 and an accomplished golfer at the club, had two birds: Grady, an African Grey, and Jade, a macaw, a type of parrot. Joan's family in Johnston says Grady was Gordon's pet, while Joan tended to Jade, feeding the bird with an eyedropper when it was a baby.
  • On that night in April, she called 911 for help, screaming that her husband was choking her. After the phone went dead, Gordon Jacobs called back and said twice to a dispatcher: "I shot my wife."
  • The West Palm Beach police found Chinese takeout on the kitchen counter, and guns in a briefcase, bureau, and closet. Taken to the police station, Jacobs told officers the couple had been arguing over money. "I don't know what to say," he said, according to police. He offered: "Love will make you do crazy things."
  • Jacobs has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. Last month, a Palm Beach County judge denied him bail, noting the 911 tape, and saying Jacobs was a flight risk.
  • The two birds, Grady and Jade, have been grounded since April, first at a county shelter, then at a foster home.
  • Lt. Gina DiPace, an animal control officer for Palm Beach County, had already known Gordon Jacobs through South Florida's birding circles.
  • In a place where even houses are flamingo pink, tropical warblers are honored with dozens of birding clubs, and tourist sights such as Pelican Bay and Parrot Jungle. Jacobs dallied in bird breeding, says DiPace, at one time raising more than 300 birds -- with two as pets at home.
  • After Jacobs's arrest, his relatives, who live in Rhode Island, offered to take the birds, says DiPace.
  • But they abandoned that idea, she says, when Joan Jacobs's family objected, saying they would seek custody of Jade, the parrot. "We understood from [Joan] Jacobs's family that they were going to have a court order to get custody of the bird," says DiPace.
  • DiPace says that through friends, Gordon Jacobs has called the county Animal Care & Control to check on Grady and Jade, the two birds. Says DiPace: "Gordon has had birds for years and wants to keep those birds."


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