A woman who was under investigation for the disappearance and death of a Palo Alto family's beloved German shepherd in January has been arrested and charged in another state after another dog died, North Reading, Massachusetts police Chief Mark Zimmerman said in a press release on Sept. 26.
Josephine Marie Ragland, 27, who took a Palo Alto dog named Scott, purportedly to train him, now resides in Haddam, Connecticut. She faces charges related to allegedly running an animal-training scam. She also now faces potential charges in the case of Scott, who disappeared while in her care, Palo Alto police said.
A North Reading resident reported their 3-year-old French bulldog, Charlie, had not been returned by Ragland on Sept. 16 following a two-week training period for which they paid her $1,500.
An initial investigation determined the dog died on or about Sept. 4, though Ragland sent the owner photos of what was purported to be training after that date. Police allege that Ragland made numerous false or misleading statements to officers during interviews to hinder the investigation, Zimmerman said.
A necroscopy performed by the University of Connecticut determined the bulldog was emaciated at the time of its death, he said.
Police contacted the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals regarding the case. With the help of law enforcement in Connecticut, four other dogs were recovered and safely returned to their owners in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, he said.
Ragland was using the name Lily through the Thumbtack app, an online services site, to solicit customers, according to documents obtained by Massachusetts news outlet WFSB 3.
She allegedly claimed the bulldog had been struck and killed by a car and that she had buried him in her backyard in Connecticut. Investigators, however, found the dog's remains more than 35 minutes from her home, in Norwich, Connecticut.
Ragland faces two felonies: larceny over $1,200 by false pretense and obstruction of/misleading a police officer, according to court documents.
She also now faces possible charges in Palo Alto, Capt. James Reifschneider said on Tuesday night, Sept. 26.
Reifschneider confirmed the Palo Alto Police Department has been working with law enforcement in Massachusetts and shared details of their investigation with the detectives.
"Our investigation has been completed and will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office on Thursday for review and a determination of whether criminal charges are merited. We are awaiting that determination. Beyond that, we have no additional information available for release at this time," he said.
The case of the missing shepherd, Scott, had multiple similarities to the Massachusetts incident, including that the owners had hired Ragland through an app, she had taken the dog for training and the dog was not returned.
In the Palo Alto case, Ragland returned a German shepherd to Scott's owner, Carolina Bruchilari, but the dog was not Scott, nor did it look anything like Scott, his owner said.
Ragland eventually claimed that Scott had escaped from a residence in Humboldt County, where she had placed the dog while attending a funeral. Only small parts of Scott's fur were reportedly found by the person who was caring for the dog. Ragland said the person responsible for the dog believed it was killed by a predator such as a coyote.
Palo Alto police have said in the past that the case was complicated and had many angles they were pursuing, which is why the referral to the DA's office took so long. The Palo Alto Weekly didn't previously name Ragland in its coverage because she was not charged with a crime. But per our policy, Ragland is being named now since she faces charges in the similar Massachusetts case.