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Woman still sought in Petland puppy thefts

Missouri resident Shelly R. Hess allegedly stole three purebred puppies last fall from Petland stores in Naperville, Bolingbrook and suburban St. Louis, only to see the dogs returned anonymously a few days later by an apparently worried relative or friend.

Perhaps fearful of just how far the long arm of the law might be able to reach, Hess allegedly returned to the Naperville shop two weeks later, at which time she bought the puppy she had initially stolen, along with another dog. Police said she later allegedly called a Naperville Petland employee to confess what she had done, saying she hoped the purchase “would make it right.”

And on the day of that purchase, Hess allegedly changed her appearance and “fooled everyone,” buying the puppies while Naperville police detectives were inside the store interviewing the employee who had dealt with her at the time of the theft, according to the owner of the Naperville Petland.

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Hess, 50, of Chesterfield, Mo. in connection with her alleged Nov. 7 theft of a dog in Lake Saint Louis, Mo.

She also is the prime suspect in the Nov. 8 theft of a 2-month-old male Havanese named Casper from the Petland outlet at 720 S. Route 59 on Naperville’s far west side. She also is suspected of the theft earlier that day of a 14-week-old male Maltese from the Petland shop at 744 E. Boughton Road in neighboring Bolingbrook.

Assistant Lake Saint Louis Police Chief Chris DiGiuseppi on Tuesday confirmed Hess was arrested Jan. 28 on a charge of stealing. The warrant for her arrest on that felony charge was signed Monday by a St. Charles County, Mo. judge.

Lake Saint Louis police Detective Sgt. Bret Carbray, in a probable cause statement obtained by The Sun, said Hess on Nov. 7 went to the local Petland store and surreptitiously walked away with a female Havanese puppy valued at $1,700. Hess traveled to the Naperville-Bolingbrook area the next day and allegedly stole the dogs from those outlets, according to the probable cause statement.

A still-unidentified man on Nov. 10 brought all three puppies to the Lake Saint Louis Petland and then hurriedly left the area, authorities said at the time. The dogs, all in good health, were soon after returned to the shops from which they came.

Carbray wrote that Hess on Nov. 22 “drove to the Naperville, Ill., Petland and purchased two dogs. One of the purchased dogs had been previously stolen” by Hess, Carbray said.

Hess later allegedly “called the manager of the Naperville Petland store several times and confessed” to the prior theft, Carbray wrote. She allegedly expressed her hope that, “by purchasing these two dogs, it would make it right.”

Telephone records obtained from the Naperville Petland showed Hess made that series of calls using her cell phone, Carbray said. Police also traced her Nov. 8 travels to the Naperville-Bolingbrook area using Illinois State Toll Highway Authority records, he said.

DiGuiseppi said Hess went last month to the Lake Saint Louis police station in the company of an attorney. She made no statement, was charged with stealing, and photographed and fingerprinted before being released, he said.

Naperville police Sgt. Bill Davis confirmed Hess’ arrest in Missouri. He said via email the Naperville Petland case “is still pending investigation, and charges will be forthcoming.”

Bolingbrook police Lt. Mike Rompa on Tuesday said his department’s investigation of the Petland theft in that village “is still under investigation.”

“There are several items of evidentiary value we are still waiting for results on,” Rompa wrote in an email. He said he might have further information on the matter “at week’s end.”

Adam Stachowiak, who owns the Naperville Petland shop with partner Mike Isaac, said Tuesday he found it “shocking and sad that Ms. Hess would go to such lengths to find a new puppy.”

“While we appreciate her dedication and love for Casper, what she did was wrong, and we hope that Casper is being cared for properly, and that Ms. Hess is also well enough to care for Casper the way we did when he was at Petland Naperville,” Stachowiak said via email.

“We are astonished by this outcome,” Stachowiak wrote. “At the time Ms. Hess legally purchased Casper, detectives were in the store with the manager that dealt with Ms. Hess, when the puppy was stolen. She changed her appearance, and fooled everyone . . .”

“While we appreciate Ms. Hess’ attempt to ‘make things right,’ we will proceed with criminal charges for the initial theft,” Stachowiak said. “What she did was wrong, and we would never want to think, (or that) another person would assume, this is the proper way to find a new pet.”

Davis, when contacted late Tuesday, said he could neither confirm nor deny that detectives were in the Naperville Petland on Nov. 22, while Hess was allegedly buying the dogs. He said investigators did go there the next day to follow up on newly-received information in the case.

The Sun in mid-November reported Naperville police had identified a potential suspect in the thefts.

Casper was stolen shortly after 11 a.m. from the Naperville Petland outlet. The Maltese had been taken about 45 minutes earlier from the Bolingbrook store.

Employees of both businesses told police they did not get a good look at the thief. Video surveillance tape images released to local media did not provide a clear or particularly useful image of the woman, now believed to have been Hess.

The unidentified man who returned the puppies reportedly is related to or is a friend of Hess’. He brought them to the Lake Saint Louis Petland in a portable kennel and gave it to a passerby, with the request that he bring the dogs inside the store.

DiGiuseppi said the suspect is a white man in his mid-30s with facial hair. “He parked around the corner, so nobody got a look” at the vehicle he had been driving, DiGiuseppi said.

All three puppies had had identifying microchips injected beneath their skins prior to being put on display in their respective shops.

An examination of St. Charles County court records indicated Hess between 2002 and 2013 was involved in at least 12 other legal cases, including two orders of protection that were taken out against her for stalking. Most of the others were civil and small claims court matters, records showed.

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