Police have surprise for teen whose dog was stolen
Police say Chihuahua was snatched Sunday by 2 people responsible for chain of car burglaries.
By Theresa Cisneros, The Orange County Register
Thursday, March 12, 2009
An Orange County girl and her puppy can sleep a little easier tonight after being reunited by police – who say the dog was snatched from a parking lot Sunday by a couple responsible for a chain of burglaries in the South Bay.
Police say Lola, a 6-month-old Chihuahua, was stolen as owner Brianna Bartolone, 18, ate with family inside King's Hawaiian Bakery &Restaurant in Torrance.
Bartolone said she never leaves the purebred pooch in the car unattended, even at restaurants, but was urged to do so Sunday by family members. So she placed Lola's zebra-patterned carrier into the cab of her boyfriend's truck, spread out a few doggie toys, and headed inside to celebrate her dad's birthday.
After about 30 minutes, Bartolone became uneasy and told her boyfriend that she wanted to check on Lola. Upon arriving at the truck, she discovered that Lola, her hot-pink wallet, and black-and-tan Urban Junkie bag were missing.
"I felt so helpless and so upset," she said. "I didn't event care about the purse."
Police say that Andres Garcia, 20, of Los Angeles, and his girlfriend, Alexandra Hernandez, 19, of Bell lifted the dog and the items. Gardena police arrested the pair Tuesday in connection with another incident, said Gardena Det. Todd Fox.
The duo allegedly stole purses and wallets from cars, then used the credit cards inside to buy items from Target and other shops. Only one transaction – a charge for $21.64 at Target – went through. She's since been reimbursed by her bank, she said.
After the theft, Bartolone – who lives mainly with her mom in Costa Mesa and with her dad on weekends in Anaheim Hills — was deeply saddened by the loss of the canine that she purchased from a Santa Ana breeder in November. She couldn't bring herself to eat or sleep, and insisted on curling up in her mom's bed at night because Lola wasn't there to sleep near her neck.
"Those people took something more than just my belongings," said Bartolone. "They took my baby."
On Monday, Bartolone's friends and family distributed about 300 color and black-and-white fliers bearing Lola's photo and information on a $1,000 reward being offered for her safe return.
On Tuesday, she headed back to classes at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.
As school wound down Wednesday, she received a call from a Torrance detective urging her to drive to the station. Bartolone asked her teacher and her mom for permission, then headed out.
Bartolone said she thought she was going there to talk about the theft. Instead, officers emerged with her beloved canine. Lola was discovered at the Lynwood home of one of the suspect's relatives.
"I ran and grabbed her and hugged and kissed her," Bartolone said. "I could tell she was happy, too."
After being reunited, Bartolone purchased food and treats for Lola, gave her a warm bath.
"It's nice to have that little warm spot back," she said. "I'd rather sleep uncomfortable with Lola than comfortable for the rest of my life without her."