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Parents of teen killed by S.F. Zoo tiger want answers

SAN JOSE, California -- Investigators and the parents of a 17-year-old killed by a Siberian tiger at San Francisco Zoo want to know how the cat could have got out of its enclosure — and whether it had help.

Marilza Sousa and her husband, Carlos, choked back tears Wednesday night as they described their shock over the death of Carlos Sousa, Jr. “I wish I was sleeping and this was just a bad dream, but it’s not,” Marilza Sousa said.

They said they learned of their son’s death from the coroner’s office, and neither police nor zoo officials had contacted them.

“They didn’t call, like we lost a dog or a cat,” Marilza Sousa said. “But we do have questions. How did this happen?”

The zoo was to remain closed Thursday as police continue probing how the animal was able to leave an enclosure surrounded by an 18-foot (5.5-meter) wall and a 20-foot (6-meter) moat. Police shot the 300-pound (136-kilo) animal to death after it killed Sousa and severely mauled two brothers who also were visiting the zoo.

Police Chief Heather Fong said the department opened a criminal investigation to “determine if there was human involvement in the tiger getting out or if the tiger was able to get out on its own.”

One zoo official insisted the tiger did not get out through an open door and must have climbed or leaped out. But Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo, said such a leap would be an unbelievable feat and “virtually impossible.”

“There’s something going on here. It just doesn’t feel right to me,” he said. “It just doesn’t add up to me.”

Instead, he speculated that visitors could have been fooling around and might have taunted the animal and perhaps even helped it get out by, for instance, putting a board in the moat.

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