HOLIDAY — It was a warm day, but the young woman wore a fur-lined parka with a hood covering most of her face. Karin Miller thought that was odd.
It was Monday afternoon at Miller's house. Miller had chihuahua puppies for sale and the woman, whom Miller knew only as K.J., seemed desperate for one. K.J. called Miller 11 times after she saw an ad in the paper for them. Miller has a thorough screening process for potential owners and thought something about K.J. wasn't right. But the young woman told Miller she raises and breeds blue-nosed pit bulls at her home in Hudson. Miller thought K.J. seemed to have some knowledge of dogs, so she said K.J. could come and take a look at them.
K.J. brought two men with her. She kept trying to get Miller to lower her price of $750. Miller, 47, wouldn't budge.
Then the two men started asking Miller about her tile work, which she does herself. They ended up in another room. She showed off her cultured brick fireplace and brought out her portfolio.
"They kept saying, 'Oh you're so great,' " she said.
They said they could get her some tile jobs. She fetched them one of her fliers with her contact information.
Then K.J. came into the room.
"She did the pee-pee dance," Miller said.
K.J. said she had to use the bathroom immediately. Miller offered to let K.J. use hers.
"It's clean," Miller said.
K.J. said no — that she doesn't use other people's bathrooms. She asked her boyfriend to take her to a store nearby.
They left in a hurry.
Miller followed them and noticed one of her puppies was missing — a chocolate male with fawn markings, just over 2 months old, just under 2 pounds.
"I ran after them," Miller said. She was furious.
Their Mustang was pulling away. Miller said, through the rearview mirror, she could see K.J. pull the puppy from her coat and place him on her shoulder.
"I didn't think I would ever see him again," Miller said.
She called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office — even though she felt guilty, and kept apologizing to the deputies for taking up their time for a stolen puppy. They comforted her and dusted the stained glass the guys touched for fingerprints.
K.J. left a trail: her phone number and her business of raising dogs in Hudson. Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said detectives went online and searched for blue-nosed pit bull breeders in Hudson. That information led them to K.J.'s boyfriend.
"He got her to turn herself in," Doll said. The boyfriend and the other man were not charged because they cooperated with the investigation, Doll said.
The suspect brought the puppy with her when she turned herself in to authorities early Thursday.
Authorities say K.J. is Kylea Lynn Jenness, 20, who listed her address as St. Petersburg. She is charged with grand theft and is being held in the Pasco County jail in lieu of $1,000 bail.
Miller said a deputy brought the puppy to her house about 3 a.m. Thursday. She said the deputy cradled the tiny puppy as he drove to return him. She loves that image of a deputy with his "bullet-proof vest on and a chihuahua puppy in his lap."
"I have to give kudos to the sheriff's department of Pasco County," Miller said. She can't believe deputies got her dog back. On Thursday, the puppy — who has the temporary name of Poopah until he finds a home — played with his sister, dragging out all of their toys, and then snoozed in the middle of the pile.
"It's fabulous," Miller said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.