The trial of an Angels Camp woman accused of animal cruelty is scheduled to begin April 3 in Calaveras County Superior Court.
Vonna Faye Hughes, the owner of the now-closed Pet Bath House on Main Street in Angels Camp, appeared in court on Monday with her attorney, Ken Foley, of San Andreas.
“Are you free in April?” Foley said to Hughes Monday morning.
Hughes, dressed in a red overcoat with a leopard print lining, rose to her feet and whispered to Foley.
Healy also set a trial readiness conference for March 29 and a trial confirmation conference for April 2.
Her trial was supposed to have started on Dec. 5, but the Calaveras County District Attorney’s Office asked for a delay because two of their witnesses were unable to be there.
The motion did not specify which of the approximately 30 potential witnesses were not available. Deputy District Attorney Jeff Stone said the trial would take between four to six days.
At a Nov. 26 hearing, attorney David Singer made a special appearance for Foley, according to court records. Hughes was not present because she was “not aware of this date,” the document said.
Stone, who prosecuted the case for the people during the preliminary hearing and for most of the previous hearings, was not present in court on Monday.
Deputy District Attorney Monique Neese appeared for the Calaveras County District Attorney’s Office on Monday morning.
Following the scheduling of the trial, Cici’s owner and victim Steven Mendoza left the courtroom with approximately a dozen supporters. Mendoza, like a few others, wore a shirt that read “Justice for Cici.” One of the supporters brought her service dog into the proceedings, a red-nosed pitbull named Falcor who remained quiet for over an hour before the start of Hughes’ hearing.
“I don't like it,” Mendoza said of the trial date after the hearing, with tears welling in the corner of his eyes. “I’m tired of this dragging.”
Hughes was originally supposed to stand trial Sept. 12, but that date was vacated because of Foley’s commitment to another trial in Amador County.
Hughes was arrested almost a year and a half ago on the charges and has been out on bail since her arrest for failing to appear for an arraignment in the same case 16 months ago.
Hughes is accused of three counts of felony animal cruelty, two counts of felony grand theft, and two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty relating to three dogs — Casper, Coco and Cici — left in her care by Butte Fire survivor Mendoza in June 2017. Cici was found dead in a bloody trash bag at a Utica Power Authority property in Murphys about a month after all three dogs disappeared.
Mendoza said Casper and Coco were “safe,” but said he could not reveal where they were being cared for. Mendoza has boarded his dogs in numerous locations, including Jay Tee Kennels in Valley Springs, Calaveras County Animal Services, and the Pet Bath House since his home in Mountain Ranch was destroyed in the Butte Fire in September 2015.
Mendoza is among the approximately 30 witnesses included on both the prosecution and defense witness lists. Other people called to testify could include his wife, Natalie, former Angels Camp Police Chief Todd Fordahl (who discovered what was presumed to be Cici’s body in Murphys), and Patti Guy, a friend of the defendant.
The three felony animal cruelty charges are related to the three individual pitbulls, Casper, Coco and Cici, and the conditions they subjected to during their time at the Pet Bath House.
Hughes has been charged with grand theft for charging Mendoza $1,000 for a $750 bill and $3,800 for a $2,800 bill for injuries that Hughes claims his dogs inflicted on other dogs in her care.
Hughes’ charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty were related to an alleged attempt to heal a gash on one of the injured dogs in the fight, Fred, with super glue, and for failing to provide appropriate care for another dog involved, Sam.