Unwitting thief tries to sell couple their own stolen dog

Florence, Ariz., resident and dog lover Kenny Erickson absolutely adores his two American Pit Bull Terriers.

Lexi was taken from her yard in Florence, Arizona, and was missing for several weeks. (Photo credit: ABC15.com)

“The Pit Bull breed is a people-pleaser,” Erickson tells the Florence Reminder & Blade-Tribune. “They used to be known as the ‘nanny dog.’”

His girlfriend, Ashley Preston, wholeheartedly echoes that sentiment, calling the breed’s bad reputation undeserved.

“They’re so great with kids,” Preston explains, an important quality to have in a dog since she and her boyfriend recently had a son, Tristyn. “To me, Pit Bulls are great dogs,” she adds.

One day in early May, Erickson arrived home from work, eager to say hello to his two best friends on four legs. But when he called to his dogs, only one came running; 4-month-old blue Pittie Lexi was nowhere to be found.

“My one Pit Bull came up to me, but [Lexi] didn’t,” Erickson tells ABC 15 News. “I ran around looking for her, and found where someone grabbed her out of my yard on the side of the house.”

His heart sank, fearing the worst had happened to his puppy. Pit Bull thefts in the area were on the rise, and who knows what the thief who’d taken Lexi had planned for the friendly pup. Erickson and Preston spent the next two months frantically searching for Lexi, plastering their town with “Missing Dog” flyers, hoping someone would come forward with any information that would lead the couple to their stolen dog.

For weeks, Erickson and Preston waited anxiously but had heard nothing. Lexi was gone and there was no sign she would ever be returned. The couple was heartbroken. But just as Erickson and Preston began to lose hope, they received a tip that would change everything.

“Someone called us and told us they knew of somebody who was trying to get rid of a Pit Bull and the description [of the dog] matched pretty closely to ours,” Preston remembers.

The couple had a hunch, but there was no way of confirming the dog was in fact Lexi unless they saw her with their own eyes. So they made a call to the woman selling the Pit Bull, the woman who might have been responsible for stealing Lexi. While speaking with the could-be thief on the phone, Erickson and Preston say they tried to keep it cool.

“We acted like we were just one of those people looking for a dog,” Preston explains. “Not that our dog was stolen.”

That’s when the woman on the other end of the line admitted to something that convinced the couple she’d taken Lexi: The woman actually fessed up to stealing the Pit Bull she was trying to sell, though she claimed to have stolen the dog from her incarcerated nephew. The story smelled fishy from top to bottom, and Erickson and Preston could hardly believe what they were hearing.

Shortly after their initial conversation, the couple was on their way to a possible reunion with their long lost puppy — though their dog’s thief was of course none the wiser.

And sure enough, it wasn’t long before the couple’s suspicions were 100 percent confirmed. All it took was one look at the pup to know the young, friendly blue Pittie the thief was trying to sell was none other than Lexi, who was thrilled to be together again with her real owners and wasn’t afraid to show it.

“She took to you so well,” Preston remembers the clueless thief saying while the couple silently plotted just when they could contact the police.

“The only thing I could think was, ‘Let’s stay calm, do this right, and let the lady talk,’” Erickson remembers. “It took every bit of self-control on our parts.”

As soon as they could leave with Lexi, the couple was on the phone with police. A sheriff’s deputy arrived and served the thief, Janice Wolfe, with a citation for possession of stolen property. She also faces a theft charge in Florence Municipal Court. But Erickson and Preston aren’t done with the alleged thief yet.

“I’m going to pursue charges,” Erickson says. “I want people to know if they steal a dog, people will keep looking and you’ll get caught.”

As for Lexi, the happy Pittie pup is settling right back in at home. Her owners say Lexi was most excited to see Tristyn; though the baby had grown quite a bit in the months Lexi was missing, she recognized Tristyn right away, licking the little guy all over his face.

With Lexi back where she belongs, Erickson and Preston vow to keep it that way, promising to keep a much more watchful eye on both of their furry family members from now on.

Sources: Florence Reminder & Blade-Tribune, ABC 15 News