Third suspect sought in Merlin dog-killings

A group of young people who apparently set out to break their dog out of the pound face felony charges after their outing ended in burglary, the theft of multiple dogs, and the killing of four pups awaiting adoption at the Josephine County animal shelter.

The Josephine County Sheriff's Department has arrested two people and is looking for a third person in connection with the weekend break-in at the shelter at 1420 Brookside Blvd., near the Grants Pass Airport.

Deputies arrested Harley D. Hopkins, 22, of Merlin, and Jacob A. Goodboe, 16, also of Merlin, Tuesday evening on four counts of felony animal abuse and charges of first-degree theft, criminal mischief and second-degree burglary, the sheriff's department said.

Wednesday afternoon, authorities were still seeking a teenage girl suspected of participating in the string of crimes.

Officials suspect the group broke into the animal shelter after it closed Friday, cut the chain-link fencing on kennels and snatched 11 of 15 dogs housed there at the time.

Four puppies, all younger than 6 months old, were found dead of apparent blows to their heads along the 700 block of Pleasant Valley Road. The pups, three siblings from a litter of border collie-Lab mixes and a merle heeler-collie mix from another abandoned litter, were laid out in a carefully spaced pattern down the center of the 700 block of Pleasant Valley Road in Merlin. Their bodies were discovered at about 11:30 p.m. Friday, Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said.

Animal control supervisor Brad Tally said break-ins are fairly common at the shelter &

this was the sixth this year &

but the magnitude and violence of this one was shocking.

Most such crimes involve pet owners who want to reclaim their animals without paying fees or fines, he said.

Undersheriff Don Fasching said this group of suspects apparently came to the shelter illegally to get a chocolate Labrador mix that belonged to one of them, but had been brought to the shelter by someone else. Investigators don't know what spurred them to extend their crime spree to numerous other dogs, including those that were killed.

Shelter workers found two Labrador-mix pups wandering loose on the shelter grounds and a golden retriever-shepherd cross trotting along with some joggers on Brookside Boulevard Saturday morning in the wake of the burglary.

An older female red and gray dachshund was found running in a nearby neighborhood Tuesday. Investigators found the chocolate Lab as they tracked the suspects and returned her to the shelter Tuesday. When officials caught up to Hopkins and Goodboe shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, the two had another of the stolen dogs, a spotted blue heeler pup, who was also returned safely, Tally said.

"These dogs have been traumatized," he said. "We're just trying to get back to normal."

Fasching said the blue heeler's litter mate is thought to be with the girl still sought by police.

He said Hopkins had retained an attorney and both suspects were declining to talk with investigators. The investigation is ongoing and police ask anyone with information to call the sheriff's office at 474-5123.

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