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Woman won't serve time for stealing service dog

CALEDONIA — A homeless woman accused of stealing a service dog and possessing drugs won't spend any time in jail.

Donna Verona Ahles, 51, had entered an Alford plea of guilty to fourth-degree burglary last month in Houston County District Court. In exchange for the plea, additional counts of felony third-degree burglary and felony theft and two petty misdemeanor drug charges were dismissed.

With an Alford plea, Ahles maintains her innocence but acknowledges the evidence would be sufficient to convict her.

On Wednesday, Judge James A. Fabian sentenced her to a year in jail, stayed for two years, and fined Ahles $3,000.

The incident began Aug. 17, when a Caledonia woman reported to law enforcement she was missing a dog valued at $1,200. She told authorities she was training the dog, named Angel, to be a service dog; when trained, it would be worth $3,500.


Angel had been contracted to Ahles, but was returned to the trainer Aug. 16 when the woman learned Ahles wasn't following the terms of the contract, the complaint says.

The animal was kept in a kennel in a shed on the trainer's property.

On the 17, the Caledonia woman said Ahles had called her, asking to visit the dog. The woman said she'd be gone, but suggested they meet later. When the trainer arrived home, Angel was gone.

Officers spoke with a couple who said they'd given Ahles a ride to the trainer's home. According to the criminal complaint, Ahles had told them the trainer had stolen Angel and Ahles needed to bring the dog home.

The couple dropped Ahles and the animal at a church in Freeburg, because Ahles was homeless, the report says. Law enforcement found and arrested Ahles at the church.

While searching her prior to arrest, officers allegedly found a glass pipe used for smoking marijuana, a small canister containing marijuana and a grinder. Ahles told them she has seizures, and had prescription medication in her purse, as well.

Angel was returned to the trainer.

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