Family With Two Young Daughters Extorted By Dognappers

By Samantha Tata
|  Saturday, May 18, 2013  |  Updated 2:38 PM PDT
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Walter, an 11-year-old deaf mini Yorkie, went missing from a Los Feliz backyard on May 16, 2013. A man called his owners demanding $1,000 for the mini Yorkie's safe return. Kim Baldonado reports from Los Feliz for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 17, 2013.

Walter, an 11-year-old deaf mini Yorkie, went missing from a Los Feliz backyard on May 16, 2013. A man called his owners demanding $1,000 for the mini Yorkie's safe return. Kim Baldonado reports from Los Feliz for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 17, 2013.

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A deaf 11-year-old mini Yorkie was snatched from a Los Feliz yard and his dognappers are demanding $1,000 from his owners, who are pleading with the public to help bring their dog home.

“I’m scared for him because he’s used to being inside and cozy and cuddled with,” owner Tricia O’Kelley said, her voice quavering. “He slept with me every night for the last 11 years.”

Walter, who weighs about 5 pounds, was last seen Thursday afternoon in the family’s fenced-in backyard along Los Feliz Boulevard in the Griffith Park area. 

A blocked number called O’Kelley’s cellphone, which is listed on Walter’s tags, about 10:15 p.m. Thursday.

“From the second I answered the call, I knew this guy was bad news,” she said.

The man on the other end of the line told O’Kelley he wants $1,000 for the dog’s safe return. O’Kelley said she heard another man laughing in the background.

Her husband took over negotiations. The dognapper said he’d call back and hung up.

Within minutes, the blocked number called back and this time, O’Kelley’s husband, Adam Rosenblatt, put the call on speaker so the police on a second phone could hear.

The dognapper laid out his demands.

He wanted the family to create phony fliers offering a $1,000 reward for Walter’s return and listed streets on which he wanted them posted. Then, he would bring one of those posters to a Chevron station on Western and Franklin avenues where he would exchange the dog for the cash.

Police suggested they make the fliers and meet the men at the gas station with a plain-clothed officer.

O’Kelley’s husband was in the process of hanging up the fliers when the man called back, saying he’d been lied to and that police were at the gas station.

“He said, ‘Don’t lie to me. I’m keeping your dog,’” O’Kelley said.

That last phone call at 11:15 p.m. Thursday came from a 7-Eleven payphone in North Hollywood, O’Kelley said. And that was the last time she heard from whoever has Walter.

Walter has a condition that causes his trachea to collapse, which is common for his breed.

“He’s not just some puppy,” O’Kelley said. “He needs special care.”

The family’s two young daughters – ages 2 and 4 – ate breakfast outside Friday morning in the hopes that Walter would smell the food and come home, O’Kelley said.

“It’s unbearably terrifying and heartbreaking,” she said. “The whole thing about pets and kids, they trust you to take care of them and keep them safe.”

Walter is outfitted with tags and a microchip. He can be brought to any shelter and they can activate the microchip to let the family know where he is.

O’Kelley said she’s willing to pay the money if the men would return her dog, which she’s had since he was a puppy.

NBC4 obtained an incident report number in the case. Calls to LAPD to confirm the report had not been returned by the time of publication.

Anyone with information is asked to call the LAPD Hollywood Division, which is handling the case.

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