Suspect in Petland puppy thefts surrenders

Shelly R. Hess, 50, of Chesterfield, Mo. | Courtesy of the Lake St. Louis, Mo. Police Department
Shelly R. Hess, 50, of Chesterfield, Mo. | Courtesy of the Lake St. Louis, Mo. Police Department

A woman implicated in the thefts last fall of puppies from Petland stores in Naperville, Bolingbrook and Missouri has surrendered in connection with the first of those cases.

Shelly R. Hess appeared Thursday before a St. Charles, Mo., Circuit Court judge to answer a felony charge of theft/stealing, online court records showed. The judge agreed to allow Hess to post $1,000 bond, or 10 percent of her $10,000 bail, in order for her to remain free pending her trial, records indicated.

Hess, 50, of Chesterfield, Mo., is formally charged in the Nov. 7 theft of a female Havanese puppy valued at $1,700 from the Petland store in Lake Saint Louis, Mo., in the metropolitan St. Louis area.

She also is suspected in and could face indictment for the Nov. 8 thefts of a 2-month-old male Havanese from the Petland shop at 720 S. Route 59 on Naperville’s far west side; and a 14-week-old male Maltese from the Petland shop at 744 E. Boughton Road in Bolingbrook.

Hess was arrested Jan. 28 by Lake Saint Louis police. She went that day to the police station in the company of a lawyer, made no statement and was photographed and processed before being released.

Naperville police Sgt. Bill Davis earlier this week said the Naperville Petland case remains under investigation, and that criminal charges are expected to be formally filed against Hess.

Bolingbrook police Lt. Mike Rompa said his department’s investigation of the theft in that village also remains under investigation.

A Lake Saint Louis police probable cause statement obtained by The Sun declared Hess traveled to the Naperville-Bolingbrook area and stole the dogs.

An unidentified man believed to be a relative or friend of Hess’ on Nov. 10 brought all three puppies in a portable kennel to the Lake Saint Louis Petland and then hurried away from the area. The dogs, all in good health, were returned to their respective stores.

Hess on Nov. 22 allegedly drove to Naperville, returned to the Petland outlet there “and purchased two dogs,” according to the probable cause statement. One of those puppies, named Casper, was the one she had stolen earlier in the month, the statement said.

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

Telephone records from the Naperville Petland showed Hess made those calls using her cell phone, the statement indicated. Police also said they traced her Nov. 8 travels to the Naperville-Bolingbrook area using Illinois State Toll Highway Authority records.

Adam Stachowiak, who owns the Naperville Petland with partner Mike Isaac, said Tuesday via email he was “astonished by this outcome.” When Hess was allegedly making her legal purchase of Casper and the other dog, “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 . . .”

Davis later said he could not confirm or deny that police were in the store at the same time as Hess. Davis said investigators did go there the next day to follow up on newly-received information in the case.

Hess is scheduled to appear Feb. 26 before St. Charles Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Walker Swann, according to court records.