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Ex-mayor's plea deal ends Texas dognapping case

Thursday, July 17, 2008

ALICE, Texas -- A former small-town South Texas mayor accused of secretly keeping her neighbors' dog after telling them the pet died has reached a plea deal.

Grace Saenz-Lopez pleaded no contest Tuesday to filing a false police report, a misdemeanor. Under terms of the deal, she'll pay a $300 fine and serve 48 hours of community service and two years of probation.

Saenz-Lopez, the former mayor of Alice, had claimed the shih tzu named Puddles died last year while she was pet-sitting for neighbors Rudy Gutierrez and Shelly Cavazos. Three months later, however, a relative of the neighbors saw the dog, renamed Panchito, at a grooming business.

Saenz-Lopez insisted that Gutierrez and Cavazos had neglected the animal, but state District Judge Richard Terrell in McAllen ordered her in April to return the dog.

Saenz-Lopez had faced two felony counts of tampering with evidence and concealing evidence for hiding the dog with her sister and reporting it as missing. Her sister, Gracy Garcia, was indicted on a count of concealing evidence. Those charges were dropped under the plea deal.

Saenz-Lopez resigned as mayor in February once a recall petition began circulating. She had held the office since 2003.


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