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Two condemned canines sprung from county stir

January 30, 2003

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Two dogs condemned to death for attacking a horse are now free and on the run, thanks to a little illegal help from the outside.

A four-month stay of execution for Casper and Coco was set to expire at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

But before the fugitive duo could take their final walk, they were freed in an early morning break-in Tuesday at the Berkeley County animal control facility in Martinsburg.

"All signs point to the dog owners," Berkeley County Assistant Prosecutor Betsy Giggenbach said Wednesday.

Late Wednesday, the dogs and their owners were still at large, according to a spokesman at the West Virginia State Police.

Employees arrived Tuesday to find all the dogs out of their runs and roaming freely about the facility, animal control officials said.

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But only two dogs were missing - Casper, a 2-year-old deaf Dalmatian/pit bull mix; and Coco, an 8-year-old, one-eyed terrier.

On May 4, 2002, Clifford Arntz of Inwood discovered the hulking figure of Casper gnawing on the head of one of his horses collapsed on the ground. A few steps away, Coco stood with a blood-covered mouth. Arntz ran to his house to retrieve his shotgun, but when he returned the dogs had disappeared.

The horse was immediately put down, said Giggenbach, the original prosecutor in the case.

Both dogs were found at the nearby home of their owners, Shenandoah Warner, 28, and Christina Ball, 34. Casper and Coco were immediately taken into custody and later ordered to be euthanized.

However, the sentence was stayed for four months in order to give the owners an opportunity to appeal.

Though a number of pleas were made by Warner and Ball to free their dogs and let them take the animals to a farm in Huntington, no official appeal or extensions were ever filed.

"They were all over the board with this stuff. But they didn't file one," said County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely.

After the dogs were discovered missing, a call to Warner and Ball's landlord revealed they had fled the area, said Giggenbach.

She said the court plans to "proceed with any and all criminal charges," in the case.

Harboring and hiding the dogs is a misdemeanor offense that for each day carries a possible sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a $10 to $50 fine per dog.

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