The owner of the Pet Bath House in Angels Camp, who is accused of multiple felony animal cruelty and grand theft charges, was issued a trial date of Sept. 12 at the Calaveras County Superior Court.
Vonna Faye Hughes, dressed in bright red tennis shoes and a long red jacket, sat the defendant’s table Monday morning, and flashed a wide smile at Judge Susan Harlan.
Her attorney, Ken Foley of San Andreas, began the hearing by indicating that Hughes would be reiterating her plea of not guilty, and that the defense was also considering filing a motion to dismiss over half of her charges.
Hughes is charged with three counts of felony animal cruelty, two counts of felony grand theft, and two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty related to her treatment of Casper, Coco and Cici, three pitbulls boarded in her facility by a Butte Fire survivor in late June 2017.
“I’m mad. I want it over. I just want closure for Cici,” the owner of the pitbulls, Steven Mendoza, said following the hearing.
During Hughes’ preliminary hearing, Angels Camp Police Chief Todd Fordahl testified that he had investigated the remains of a decomposed dog carcass inside a double-bagged garbage bag outside of a spillway debris gate at the Utica Power Authority on Crestview Drive in Murphys.
The dog carcass, which was bloody and attached to a leash and collar, had become decomposed and had been ravaged by scavengers in nearly a month’s time before it was located by a Utica Power Authority employee.
Though a scheduled necropsy was never completed, the dead dog was determined to be one of Mendoza’s lost dogs, Cici.
Mendoza had been reunited with Casper and Coco only days before at Calaveras County Animal Services in San Andreas after they were located near Pennsylvania Gulch Road in Murphys.
Hughes’ felony animal cruelty charges pertain to her depriving all three dogs of “necessary sustenance and shelter.”
Foley said Hughes’ not guilty plea did not preclude the potential submission of a motion to dismiss one or more of the charges, before the start of the trial.
Foley said that the motion would likely be directed at “counts four through seven,” the two felony grand theft charges and the two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Hughes was charged with grand theft after she billed Mendoza $1,000 and $3,800, respectively, for two incidents related to his dogs allegedly attacking other dogs while in her care.
Hughes is accused of charging Mendoza $1,000 for a $750 bill for the treatment of Fred, a dog she said was attacked by Mendoza’s dogs, and for charging Mendoza $3,800 for a $2,800 bill for the treatment of Sam, another dog allegedly attacked by Mendoza’s dogs.
Hughes’ charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty were related to an attempt to heal a gash Fred sustained in the fight with super glue, and for failing to provide appropriate care for Sam.
The trial was designated for Courtroom 3 of the Calaveras County Superior Court, and Foley estimated that the trial would not be longer than four to six days. Deputy District Attorney Brad Jones also added that he did not believe the trial would last any longer than a week.
A trial readiness conference was scheduled for Aug. 28 and a pretrial conference was also scheduled for June 1.