CLINTON, LA — A man accused of theft for sheltering a stray dog pleaded “not guilty” in an East Feliciana courtroom this morning. The case unlike any other will go to trial on December 9.
It all started back in May. A purebred boerboel Mastiff wandered onto the property of Kyle Wayne Holmes, so he took it in and claims he tried to locate the owner.
“I live on 26 acres of land. I don’t have too many neighbors, so when the dog showed up, I started contacting all of them,” Kyle Wayne Holmes explained in a past interview with NBC33. “We kept the dog for about 48 hours. There was no identification on him. He had a collar on, but there were no tags. He was very malnourished, so we fed him and bathed him.”
Holmes was set to go out of town on a hunting trip for an extended period of time. Not wanting to leave the dog behind, he turned to Facebook for help.
“I posted a picture of the dog on Facebook and asked if anyone would be willing to take care of the dog while I was out of town,” Holmes said. “My friend Lori [Williams, who lives in Watson] agreed to take him.”
Eventually, Holmes got a phone call from a man claiming to be the owner of the animal. After a series of what Holmes describes as “miscommunications” the owner believed something suspicious was happening, so he contacted the East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office.
“I gave her [Lori Williams] several chances to give the dog back,” Sgt. Kevin Garig, East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office, said in a past interview with NBC33. “I stressed to her several times on the phone that he [the owner] just wanted his dog back. We tried really hard to prevent this from going this far. But she refused to give the dog back.”
Williams, however, claimed the dog had run away. At this point, however, deputies had enough evidence to charge Holmes with felony theft.
“First, it says that he let the dog go inside the house, so the owner couldn’t find it if it was in the house,” Philip House with the Baton Rouge law firm Manasseh, Gill, Knipe and Belanger, said. “Second, it says that he only put the missing notice on his Facebook account, which he did not have access to because they are not friends. It adds that he only contacted one vet and only spoke to his neighbors about it. Third, it says that he gave the dog away, which shows that he never had the intent of returning it. And finally, it says that when he originally texted the owner, he gave him the wrong number.”
Holmes asserts that he is innocent. However, Williams was recently arrested by the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office because investigators recovered the dog and the person who had it said they bought the dog from Williams.
“The individual who bought the dog had knowledge that an investigation was going on, but they did not know there was a criminal act,” he said.
Sgt. Garig noted that the evidence does not implicate Holmes in the sale of the animal and they have no proof as to whether he knew Williams intended to sell the dog.
“Kyle had no knowledge that the dog was sold or what she told law enforcement,” House insisted. “He had no knowledge where the dog was, and he would have happily given it back had he known. Like most of the investigating officers, he assumed what she [Williams] told him was true.”
The original charge of felony theft has been reduced to a misdemeanor. If convicted Holmes could face up to 6 months in prison and a fine no higher than $1,000.