ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Two of three suspects accused of stealing a dog on the Eastern Shore received their punishments Thursday in court.
A judge sentenced Bettina Rodriguez and Gordon Shell to serve 90 days in jail, with all but five suspended. The two also have to pay a $1,000 fine, and Rodriguez had to complete 50 hours of community service.
On Thursday, both sides entered a plea agreement, which lessened the felony charge of larceny of a dog to a misdemeanor.
“As a first time offender, I had no idea I would be given any kind of punishment like that,” said Rodriguez. “I honestly thought I was just saving a life. My compassion and my heart took over.”
“I had no intentions of this going this far,” said Gordon Shell.
In January 2015, Rodriguez says a neighbor tipped her off to a dog being left in frigid temperatures near Parksley. In testimony, 10 On Your Side learned Shell, Rodriguez and Charlene Boyajian went to the home and cut the dog loose.
Rodriguez admits to loading the dog in a U-haul before passing it off to another driver, who took the animal to Virginia Beach.
Police stopped the three suspects on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel shortly after the theft. Rodriguez admitted in court that she lied to officers about stealing the dog.
At sentencing, the judge called it a “well-planned, well-coordinated event.”
“I was very scared that if I did say that we had it, that they were going to bring the dog back and put it back in those conditions,” said Rodriguez.
Two character witnesses, a longtime friend and Bettina’s sister, were called to the witness stand on her behalf. They both talked about her being a giving person who loved animals and only wanted to rescue the dogs.
Rodriguez tells 10 On Your Side she’s been working with legislators for the past 16 months to potentially strengthen laws regarding animal care in Virginia.
Boyajian’s trial is expected to begin on Aug. 11.