Vandal frees dogs

Marine charged with felonies

Keywords: Crime, Arson, Police,

All the loose dogs are accounted for, but damage estimated at more than $10,000 remains after a vandal’s spree early Saturday morning. Nearly a dozen dogs were set loose from a kennel, and the kennel and a used-car lot next door were heavily damaged.

Lance Cpl. Kenneth Walter Jones, who was in Durango on a break with fellow Marines, was arrested at 12:34 a.m. Saturday after Durango Police Department officers confronted him at 4x4 Auto Sales, 21760 U.S. Highway 160, police spokesman Ray Shupe said Monday.

Jones, 22, who lists a hometown of Escondido, California, was breaking things and had started a small fire inside 4x4 Auto Sales before police arrived, a police report said. There was “heavy damage” to the building, and eight vehicles had windows broken out, apparently with a shovel.

Before that, according to the police report, Jones had smashed several glass windows and doors nearby at Healthy Hounds and Fat Cats. In the process, he set 12 dogs loose, said LeeAnn Craig, owner of Healthy Hounds.

Craig said she was informed at 2 a.m., hurried to her kennel, which is also a pet-supplies store, and took inventory of the missing dogs. Of the dogs being boarded that night, one had not been sprung, and one returned to the shop right away, Craig said.

La Plata County Animal Control officers quickly rounded up four others and set a couple of live traps. One dog was found at about 8 a.m. at its home off Junction Creek, and every other dog but one was safely in hand as of Saturday afternoon.

The search for the final dog continued until Sunday afternoon, when it finally entered one of the traps, Craig said.

“I’m just so relieved. It was a nightmare,” Craig said. “They’re more like people’s kids than just dogs.”

Its windows are boarded up, but Healthy Hounds has reopened. Craig said that several people arrived to help clean up the mess of broken glass and splattered paint Saturday. The help included three or four La Plata County Sheriff’s deputies, a woman with Durango Animal Hospital, Humane Society workers including Director Chris Nelson, and Healthy Hounds staff members.

“Thank you to everyone who helped out,” Craig said.

Meanwhile, Jones is in the La Plata County jail on $25,000 bail, Shupe said. He was charged with felony arson, felony criminal mischief, felony criminal tampering for letting the dogs loose and second-degree burglary.

Marines in the group told investigating officers that they are with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, based in Miramar, California. They fly a V-22 Osprey to various locations for training in different terrain.

On Sunday, two V-22s were seen making several passes over downtown, leaving people at the Taste of Durango buzzing over the large, powerful aircraft, which are part helicopter and part fixed-wing.

The Marines, said that after their arrival Friday, they went drinking downtown. At some point, their “buddy system” broke down, and they lost track of Jones. The Marines were staying at the Holiday Inn, not far from the crime scene.

Police officers first on the scene early Saturday morning saw the damage at Healthy Hounds and noticed “an unusual number of dogs running in the area of all sizes and breeds,” according to the report. “Dogs were running into the highway and towards the creek.”

Two officers proceeded to 4x4 Auto, where they heard items being broken inside, according to the police report released Monday. They told Jones to come out with his hands up, which he did.

Upon further investigation, officers smelled smoke and traced it to a room with a microwave, which contained a can of starter fluid and a lighter. A poster on a door had been recently burned.

4x4 Auto also suffered broken glass doors and windows, and a fax machine and computer were also found damaged.

johnp@durangoherald.com