Suspect arrested in car theft and pet death

This is the man officials accuse of stealing a car with a dog inside, and then abandoning it, in Lents, leaving the pet to die …

From behind this outer East Portland marijuana dispensary, a thief stole a car and the dog inside it.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

A dog that went stolen – while inside the car used by its owner, on the afternoon of April 7 – was found dead days later, still inside the abandoned vehicle, on April 12.

Bill Robbins, the owner of Sweet Leaf Illusions at 8434 SE 82nd Avenue, near Cartlandia, said he’d left his Great Dane-Lab mix named Kona in a locked, but idling, car behind his business.

Behind the Sweet Leaf Illusions store, the suspect walks up to the car, surveillance video shows.

Robbins had left the black Hyundai Elantra running, with its air conditioner on, to help keep Kona cool while he went into the store to pick up a deposit. Minutes later, when he returned, the car and his dog were gone.

Moments later, at 4:27 p.m. that afternoon, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct officers responded to the store on the report of a stolen vehicle with a dog inside, said PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Greg Stewart.

This surveillance video still frame shows a man getting into the idling car before driving away.

But, because Robbins didn’t have proof of ownership or know the license plate number of the car – and because the vehicle was not registered to him – there was little that officers could do, other than broadcast the description of the missing vehicle and pooch, Stewart said.

The marijuana dispensary’s surveillance video showed a man casually walking up to the car, trying the driver’s side door, then opening the rear door and unlocking the driver’s side door, and then getting into the driver’s seat. When the man entered, Kona playfully greeted him before he drove out of the store’s rear parking lot.

The owner sent out this photo of his dog on Twitter, hoping someone would find or report having seen Kona.

Robbins told reporters that he was in the store for only five minutes when he realized his car was gone. Although he recalled locking the doors, Robbins wondered if his dog inadvertently unlocked the back door of the vehicle.

Even though Robbins and his friends put up flyers and posted about it on Facebook, offering a $5,000 reward for Kona’s return, there was no response for five days.

But, on April 12, Robbins’ business received a call from a woman who said she had seen the flier, and that the missing car was parked near SE 91st Avenue and Cooper Street, across from Kelly Elementary School.

The car, with the dead dog inside, was here – adjacent to Kelly Elementary School.

Police officers arrived at 4:44 p.m. responding to a “suspicious vehicle” call at the intersection. “The caller had found the vehicle, and unfortunately, the dog was deceased,” Stewart said.

“The Forensic Evidence Division responded to process the vehicle and detectives have been assigned to this case,” Stewart added.

“This dog has been with me every single minute of the day; friendliest dog ever,” Robbins sorrowfully told reporters. “The guy [who stole my car] literally killed my dog; we need to get him arrested. I’m offering up to $8,000 as a reward to find whoever is responsible.”

It’s not clear if it was due to the cash reward, or simply because the story infuriated people who heard about it, but police were able to make an arrest in the case at about 5:45 p.m. on April 14.

Detectives first thought they were looking for a man who went by the name Francisco Gomez Romero. That only briefly threw them off the trail.

34-year-old Francisco Vincent Gonzalez was arrested and booked on numerous charges, ranging from vehicle theft to Aggravated Animal Abuse.

“Officers and detectives arrested 34-year-old Francisco Vincent Gonzalez in connection with an auto theft investigation, where the car owner’s dog was left inside and ultimately died,” PPB Public Information Officer, Sgt. Pete Simpson reported.

Gonzalez was arrested outside a motel room at the Super Value Inn Motel, 5205 North Interstate Avenue. On Friday, motel staff confirmed to reporters that the motel was paid for by the Oregon Department of Human Services.

And despite the suspect’s apparent total disregard of the safety of the dog in the stolen car, it appears he owned a dog himself.
“Officers checking Gonzalez’ hotel room located a medium-sized dog inside; it was turned over to Multnomah County Animal Control and later released to Gonzalez’ daughter. And, the time of his arrest, Gonzalez was in the possession of a methamphetamine pipe,” added Simpson.

Gonzalez was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 11:34 p.m. that evening, on charges of Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle, Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle, Theft in the First Degree (two counts), Aggravated Animal Abuse, and Possession of Methamphetamine. He remains in custody in lieu of a combined bail of $30,000.

Arrested for helping her husband attempt to elude the police was Linda Kathy Gutierrez.

“The hotel room was rented by Gonzalez’ wife, 33-year-old Linda Kathy Gutierrez, who was arrested later at a different North Portland address,” Simpson observed; she was apparently known to police because of previous incidents.

She was booked into MCDC at 10:57 p.m. on one count of Hindering Prosecution. She was released the following morning “on Own Recognizance”.
After learning of the arrests, Robbins told reporters, “This guy needs to be sentenced to the full strength of the law.” He added, that he buried Kona on property he owns in southern Oregon, in a place with “a view of the Siskiyou Mountains.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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