Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Public safety

Update: Brandon woman's puppy stolen in apparent road rage encounter has been found

TAMPA — A 3-month-old puppy was stolen from a car waiting at a red light near the University of South Florida this week in what deputies described as a bizarre case of road rage.

But when something that shocking happens to a puppy that looks like Bella, people take notice. And when the Labrador later showed up at the Mort Park Playground in Lutz, someone recognized her from all the news coverage and reached out on social media.

On Friday, Bella was reunited with her owner, a little dirty and with a few ant bites, but otherwise unharmed.

"I'm so glad to have my baby back," said Laura Rodriguez, 22.

Deputies got a call from Rodriguez at the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and USF's Holly Drive reporting her brown Lab had been taken through her car's back window Wednesday by another motorist.

"We've had puppies stolen from yards and pet stores," said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter. "But nothing else I can remember about one being taken out of a person's vehicle."

Rodriguez told investigators an old gray or dark-colored sedan with a male and female inside cut her off as she was approaching a turning lane. She said she could tell the female driver thought she was driving too slowly.

Soon, the driver pulled her car next to Rodriguez and her twin sister, who was in the passenger seat, and got out. Rodriguez's two rescue dogs were in the back.

Rodriguez was waiting for the light at the intersection to turn green. But before it did, the woman reached into Rodriguez's half-open window and grabbed 8-pound Bella's leash and pulled her out. The other dog, Aiko, dropped to the floor and started barking.

When Rodriguez realized what was happening, it was too late. She watched the woman throw the puppy inside the other car to the passenger and speed through the red light and onto USF's campus.

Rodriguez tried to race after her, but never caught up.

Carter said Rodriguez and another witness had a hard time giving specific details about what the woman who took the dog looked like.

Rodriguez said the ordeal happened so fast and the woman was gone before she saw details on the car or license plate. The incident wasn't caught on any red light or security cameras, Carter said.

Bella was in rough shape when Rodriguez took her in two months ago. She and her litter were abandoned by their owner.

"She is a very attached puppy," Rodriguez wrote to the Hillsborough County Facebook page for missing pets. "She needs me as much as I need her."

Bella was found playing with a little girl at Mort Park. Sensing the dog was lost, someone took her and knocked on doors nearby asking if it belonged to anyone.

A couple who recognized the dog from news coverage lied and said Bella was theirs. They posted on Facebook saying they had Bella.

A friend saw the post and alerted Rodriguez, who said she had been crying since her pup was snatched. She said Bella and her other dog have been playing nonstop.

"Even Aiko was missing her," Rodriguez said.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] or (727) 893-8862. Follow @sara_dinatale.

Comments
Tampa mom arrested after baby’s death blamed on cocaine exposure

Tampa mom arrested after baby’s death blamed on cocaine exposure

TAMPA — A mother of three faces a manslaughter charge after investigators said trace amounts of cocaine were found in the blood, soiled diaper and baby bottle nipple of her dead 8-week-old newborn son.Megan Rand, 34, was arrested Tuesday on a felony ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Man, 30, faces murder charges in St. Petersburg double-homicide

Man, 30, faces murder charges in St. Petersburg double-homicide

ST. PETERSBURG — A 30-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on murder charges in the deaths of a man and woman found dead in an alley the day before, according to police.Charles Edward Hixon Jr. faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Police: 17-year-old threatened on Facebook to ‘shoot up’ Gibbs High in St. Pete

Police: 17-year-old threatened on Facebook to ‘shoot up’ Gibbs High in St. Pete

A 17-year-old Pinellas Park teen was arrested Wednesday on a felony charge of making written threats to conduct a mass shooting for posting on Facebook that he would "shoot up" a high school if someone liked his post, according to St. Petersburg poli...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Man steals taser, incapacitates himself and Pasco deputy

Man steals taser, incapacitates himself and Pasco deputy

A man fled from a routine traffic stop in Dade City on Tuesday, leading to a fight with a deputy.
Updated: 10 hours ago
Port Richey man accused of sexually abusing teenage girl

Port Richey man accused of sexually abusing teenage girl

PORT RICHEY — A 59-year-old man was arrested Tuesday, accused of inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl multiple times last year, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies say Robert Paul Conrad of Port Richey first assaulted the t...
Published: 10/17/18
Pedestrian, 79, critically injured while crossing U.S. 19 in Clearwater

Pedestrian, 79, critically injured while crossing U.S. 19 in Clearwater

A 79-year-old woman remains in critical condition after being struck by a car on U.S. 19.
Published: 10/17/18
Plant City man arrested, 74-year-old in critical condition after Polk hit-and-run

Plant City man arrested, 74-year-old in critical condition after Polk hit-and-run

Ricky Perez wanted to visit his mother’s grave. On the way back, Polk County deputies said, he nearly sent someone else to their own.
Published: 10/17/18
'The killing has to stop,' Midtown residents say after Tuesday double homicide

'The killing has to stop,' Midtown residents say after Tuesday double homicide

Midtown residents say it's hard to find someone in the neighborhood who hasn't been affected by violence.
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/17/18

St. Petersburg police investigating double-homicide

Midtown residents believe violence is on the rise in their neighborhood.
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/17/18
Mmmmmm. Doughnuts. Clearwater police find stolen Krispy Kreme van

Mmmmmm. Doughnuts. Clearwater police find stolen Krispy Kreme van

CLEARWATER — D’oh!Police recovered a stolen Krispy Kreme delivery van filled with dozens of doughnuts on Tuesday.It was reported stolen Tuesday morning from a Krispy Kreme location in Lake City, according to Clearwater police.It was found about 300 m...
Published: 10/16/18