An Angels Camp woman accused of multiple counts of animal cruelty and grand theft was issued a new trial date of Dec. 5 Monday morning at the Calaveras County Superior Court.
Vonna Faye Hughes, former owner of the now-closed Pet Bath House, a dog-grooming and boarding house on Main Street in Angels Camp, briefly appeared in court Monday morning with her attorney Ken Foley of San Andreas to confirm the new trial date.
Her original trial date of Sept. 12 was vacated due to Foley’s obligation to a four-week murder trial in Amador County, set to begin Tuesday morning.
“Whatever the DA wants. I was the one that bumped it,” Foley said to Judge Gary Hahn.
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 at her facility by a Butte Fire survivor in late June 2017.
Hughes, who was arrested on July 8, 2017, has denied the charges against her.
Owner of the three pitbulls, Steve Mendoza, was also present at the hearing with about a half-dozen supporters in matching black t-shirts that read “Justice for Cici.”
Cici’s body was discovered in a bloody trash bag at a Utica Power Authority property on Crestview Drive in Murphys in early July, about a month after all three dogs disappeared from the Pet Bath House. Mendoza was reunited with Casper and Coco at Calaveras County Animal Services in San Andreas after they were found near Pennsylvania Gulch Road in Murphys.
“I’m glad that we’re finally going to jury trial,” he said. “I’m very happy, it’s a big relief coming off of my shoulder.”
Mendoza previously bemoaned last week’s postponement of the trial, and noted it had been over a year since Cici was discovered dead.
“I just don’t want any more interruptions,” he said.
According to a prosecution witness list filed with the Calaveras County Superior Court, 24 people may be called to testify in the trial, including Mendoza and his wife, Natalie. Additional witnesses included Angels Camp Chief of Police Todd Fordahl, who discovered what was presumed to be Cici’s body on a call for service, and Patti Guy, a friend of Hughes who reportedly threatened Mendoza over the phone regarding his payments to the Pet Bath House.
Guy was initially identified as a suspect on three counts of killing, maiming or abusing animals, three counts of stealing animals, and one count of criminal conspiracy, but was never arrested.
Hughes’ felony animal cruelty charges pertain to her depriving all three dogs of “necessary sustenance and shelter” while they were in her care in late June to early July in 2017.
The three dogs disappeared from the Pet Bath House in early July, and Casper and Coco were located by Calaveras County Animal Services in Murphys by the end of that month. A few days after the Casper and Coco were located, Cici’s body was discovered in the trash bag in Murphys.
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.
Deputy District Attorney Jeff Stone said the trial was likely to last six days and would be held in Department 3 of the Calaveras County Superior Court.