Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18959
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment, Drowning
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Wednesday, Dec 7, 2011

County: Fredericksburg City

Disposition: Alleged

» John Michael Strother
» Nachelle Janet Smith

The owner of a dog that drowned in a flooded Fredericksburg campsite late Wednesday might be charged--if police can figure out who he or she is.

City police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe said police are trying to determine who left the pit bull chained to a tree at a homeless refuge between Hazel Hill and the Blue and Gray Parkway.

A Hazel Hill resident called police about 9:50 p.m. Wednesday night after hearing the animal in distress.

The city fire department eventually went to the scene but decided that any attempt to rescue the dog posed too much risk to the workers because of rising water and the difficulty of accessing the campsite.

The location is next to Hazel Run, which had overflowed because of the heavy rain this week.

Bledsoe said it initially appeared that the dog, which weighed about 80 pounds, was zipped up in one of the tents.

But Officer Lee Ridenour returned to the scene yesterday morning and found the body chained to a tree.

Bledsoe said police are following up on leads regarding the identity of the dog's owner. The owner could face a misdemeanor charge of abuse and neglect of an animal.

Officer Ridenour demonstrated his commitment to seeking justice for the dog's death by making it his personal mission to discover the identity of the person(s) responsible. By conducting interviews and researching files of known homeless individuals who have set up campsites in the area, he discovered evidence that helped firmly establish the identity of the dog's owners. On Friday morning, after the flood waters had receded, he returned to the campsite and recovered the body of the dog which he found chained to a tree.

Officer Ridenour located the owners and interviewed them at the Cold Weather Homeless Shelter in Stafford on Friday night and on Saturday, both owners were taken into custody. John Strother, 27, and Nachelle Smith, 19, of no fixed address, were arrested and each charged with animal cruelty, animal abandonment, and failure to provide adequate care and treatment to a companion animal. Both Strother and Smith were incarcerated at the Rappahannock Regional Jail.

The dog's name was Junior.


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