BAKER CITY — A Baker City family whose dog was stolen from their yard on July 19 ended their 43-day search for their pet when they found his remains on Sept. 2 over an embankment on Old Highway 30 southeast of Baker City.
Stephanie Beard said although her heart remains broken, she is thankful her family was able to learn what had happened to their puppy and to bring him home.
She expressed gratitude to those from all over the region who offered support and helped in the search for Kobe, her family's beloved 8-month-old Chihuahua/wirehaired terrier, on a Facebook post. Stephanie said she would provide updates as she is able although specific information cannot be discussed because the criminal investigation remains open.
Beard said in an interview that she and her husband, Luke, found Kobe's remains about 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2, after returning from a day-long search of the Ebell Creek area.
"Every single day my family's been out searching and following leads," she said. "It was horrific. I just collapsed. We had been out 43 days searching. To think that we've all been driving by him for 43 days."
Beard said she and her husband collected what they could of the dog's remains that night and then returned the next day to finish up.
"I called law enforcement," she said. "All of the remains were in the same area. It was very obvious it was him."
To verify that what she had collected didn't belong to a wild animal, such as a coyote or a badger, Stephanie said she took what she had gathered to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, where officials confirmed the remains were from a dog.
She said she wants to help law enforcement in a pending court case in which Clayton Carver Hickman, 18, of Baker City, has been accused of first-degree theft, a Class C felony, for allegedly taking the dog from her home; animal abandonment, a Class B misdemeanor, in which he is charged with leaving the dog at the side of the road without providing for the animal's minimum care; and second-degree criminal trespass, a Class C misdemeanor, for entering the Beards' property on July 19 without their permission.
A grand jury indicted Hickman on the charges on Aug. 27. His next court hearing is Oct. 2 at 9:15 a.m.
In a separate case, Hickman was charged by the District Attorney's Office on Aug. 7 with second-degree criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor; and third-degree theft, a Class C misdemeanor.
Hickman is accused of damaging a hammock and taking a key belonging to Stephanie Beard between July 4 and July 22.
Stephanie said her family didn't know Hickman well, but they had let him stay in an outbuilding on their property as he was finishing high school last spring. She said she hadn't seen him recently before Kobe went missing.
A neighbor who says he saw Hickman take the dog from the yard helped police identify him as a suspect.
Hickman first told police that he had picked Kobe up to take him for a ride. He said the dog jumped out of his vehicle near Quail Ridge Golf Course.
Later, Stephanie said she had learned that Hickman had changed his story to say that he took Kobe to the area of Ebell Creek, about 6 miles south of Baker City off Highway 30.
The investigation was turned over to the Baker County Sheriff's Office because of a conflict with the city police department. Prosecution of the case is being handled by Wallowa County District Attorney Rebecca Frolander because Beard is a Baker County employee. And Judge Matt Shirtcliff has recused himself from hearing the case as well.
Baker City attorney Bob Moon has been appointed to represent Hickman.
Frolander declined to comment on the case except to say that "what we believe to be the dog's body has been located."