Dog Gone, and It Could Put Official Out of Commission

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For the second time, Cassie--or maybe it's Lady--is missing.

So the search is on again in a dog-custody case that has pitted a Lawndale planning commissioner against a local family, Lennox sheriff's detectives, the district attorney's office and several members of the City Council.

The 2-year-old unlicensed black dog was last seen Monday night in the back yard of Planning Commissioner Edie Warwick's home.

The problem, officials say, is that Warwick is not the owner of the missing dog she calls Lady. Its name is Cassie, they say, and it belongs to Lawndale residents Joseph and Vicky French, who claim Warwick has been holding the chow mix against its will.

Now Warwick is facing criminal charges for keeping the dog and dismissal from her job as commissioner.

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The problem started Sept. 11 when Cassie disappeared from the Frenches' yard. After a futile search, the family placed a lost dog ad in a local paper.

That same day, Warwick found a black dog wandering several blocks from her home. She took it home, named it Lady and took out a "found dog" ad, she said.

When the Frenches saw Warwick's ad on Sept. 16, Joseph French and his two sons, ages 11 and 7, went to retrieve their wayward pooch. French produced a photo of himself with the dog, but Warwick says the dog failed three times to "bound across the floor and leap into his arms."

Because French produced no vet bills, dog license or a clear photograph, she decided he was not the owner and refused to release the dog.

"I know he is not the rightful owner," she said.

French called the sheriff. Warwick called the mayor.

When sheriff's deputies arrived, they demanded the dog be handed over to the Frenches.

Warwick refused, saying she feared for the dog's well-being.

Mayor Harold E. Hofman and Councilman Larry Rudolph asked Warwick to release the dog.

Still Warwick refused.

Sheriff's officials assured the Frenches they would get their dog back and turned the case over to detectives.

But Detective H. D. Garcia had no luck, either.

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Despite his warnings that she would be charged, Garcia said, Warwick refused to give up the dog. On Friday, the district attorney charged Warwick with delaying an investigation and misappropriating lost property. She is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 6.

Warwick said she would only yield to a judge's ruling.

"You have to figure out what you are about and live a life that shows it," she said.

But in the meantime, Cassie--or Lady--has disappeared again.

Warwick says she went shopping Monday evening, and when she returned, she found her two white American Eskimo show dogs alone in the back yard with no sign of the black chow.

The Frenches blame Warwick.

"Does she really believe we'd believe (the dog) just disappeared?" Vicky French asked.

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Warwick said she has no idea where the dog is and denied she has hidden it.

"I'm in enough trouble already--why would I do something so stupid?" she asked.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Ralph Shaprio said he intends to prosecute Warwick on the initial charges and vowed that more charges could be filed if evidence is found that Warwick has hidden the dog.

Warwick says her friends have abandoned her, and the City Council is discussing her removal from the Planning Commission.

"I thought these people were my friends," she said.

And the Frenches still have no dog. "I told my boys, 'Don't worry, we've got the law on our side, we'll get Cassie back,' " Vicky French said. "Now what do I tell them? I can sue, but that doesn't mean we'll get our dog back."

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