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Amazon deliverer drives off with Encinitas golden retriever

Neighbor's Ring security camera catches woman with dog

The defense attorney produced two witnesses (neighbors) who claimed that Reppenhagen was known to allow her dogs to roam the neighborhood.
The defense attorney produced two witnesses (neighbors) who claimed that Reppenhagen was known to allow her dogs to roam the neighborhood.

Denise Reppenhagen was on a waiting list for a golden retriever puppy in early 2021. She saw ultrasounds of the puppies, and then she saw pics of the newborn puppies, and every two weeks she saw new pictures. Reppenhagen picked Finn out of the litter and took him home as soon as she could, at eight weeks after paying $4000. “So I was involved with Finn since he was in utero,” she testified later, in court, after her dog went missing.

Finn was 22 months old when he went missing on October 9. That Sunday morning, she came home from the gym after 10 am and found her dog was gone.

Reppenhagen, 62, said her adult daughter had driven into her garage that morning while she was away at the gym, and her daughter did not realize that Finn had gone out to the street, when her daughter closed the garage door behind her and went into the house. Reppenhagen had left for the gym that morning about 8:15 a.m.

“We frantically started searching.” she went around her neighborhood on Hollyridge Drive in Encinitas and handed out fliers. Finn was micro-chipped (and neutered) when he was one year old, so Reppenhagen contacted the chip company and reported him lost. She used an online dog forum called PAW BOOST.

She contacted local deputies; one deputy came and picked up some fliers to help get the word out.

It was more than two weeks later, on October 26, when one of her neighbors carefully reviewed video from her Ring home security camera. That neighbor saw that on October 9, at 9:43 am, a small white car stopped in front of the Reppenhagen home. It appeared that the female driver of that car was delivering Amazon packages on their street that morning. They could see when the female walked away from Reppenhagen's home back to her car, a fluffy golden retriever was with her, and the dog jumped into the driver’s side door and the car left.

Denise Reppenhagen: “It was overwhelming.”

Reppenhagen did get an Amazon package delivered to her front door that morning, so she checked with Amazon, and they showed her a photo that the delivery person had taken of the package she put on her porch, and her dog Finn was in that photo.

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She gave the neighbor’s video to Michael Chen of Channel 10 ABC, who broadcasted a story about a “dog kidnapper.” She hoped someone might recognize the white car or the driver.

“It was overwhelming,” Reppenhagen choked up. And someone did contact the sheriff, having recognized the delivery driver as living in a certain apartment in San Diego.

San Diego County Sheriff’s detective Monica Delatorre showed up with warrants and six other deputies at the address of their suspect, in the 5000 block of Ducos Place in San Diego. Investigators believed that suspect, Dena Marie Vindiola, 36, lived with her boyfriend, who was on probation and had an “extensive criminal history.”

Vindiola never had any intent to steal, according to her attorney.

The search team found a baggie of meth (two grams), and a glass bowl (bong) with white residue in Vindiola’s bedroom closet, according to the detective’s testimony. And they found fentanyl on a chair in her bedroom, and a lock-picking kit in the home.

Deputies found in Vindiola’s car a picture of a golden retriever. It said “My boy” at the bottom of the photo. There were dog feces in the backyard and a tennis ball but no dog.

Investigators saw text messages on Vindiola’s phone, one text asked if someone had any “wakeup” or “white” (meth) and if someone had any “F” (fentanyl).

Investigators found searches for Can you get in trouble if a dog jumps in your car? And Can you get in trouble for dog napping if you don’t have the dog? And If your dog is chipped what does that mean?

During the pre-trial hearing, prosecutor William Heineken seemed to suggest that Vindiola’s thuggish boyfriend might have tried to sell the dog.

There is bodycam video of deputies speaking with suspect Dena Marie Vindiola, on her back patio, they wanted to know where the dog was.

At first Vindiola said she delivered a package and saw a loose dog and the dog jumped into her car; she was going to take it to the pound, but then he started to whine so she went around the corner and dropped the dog off because he was a smart dog and would be able to find his own way home.

Then, she told another story, according to detective Delatorre. Vindiola said the friendly dog followed her to the car and it jumped into her car on its own, and it was a good boy so she took it home. She claimed she only had the dog one day, because her mother liked the dog and wanted to keep it, so she gave it to her mother who lived elsewhere in San Diego County.

The detective told the judge that texts in Vindiola’s phone suggested she had the dog at least until October 14th, and Finn went missing on October 9.

When investigators spoke to the mom, she said she did take the dog, but then she gave it to a neighbor, and that person gave it to a person at her church, and that person took the dog to a shelter.

Detectives contacted an animal shelter in El Centro and learned that Finn was placed with a foster family in Santee while waiting to be adopted. The dog shelter never contacted Reppenhagen because the information on the microchip was incorrect; the detective said there was another name and info on that chip. It was not explained why Reppenhagen was not correctly identified as the owner on the microchip.

On October 29, suspect Dena Marie Vindiola, 36, was arrested. Vindiola was described on the jail website as an Hispanic female, 5 feet 3 inches tall and 130 pounds.

On Sunday October 30, deputies coordinated with the dog owner and the foster family to meet at a Petco store in San Diego for the safe return of Finn. An overjoyed Reppenhagen got her Finn back, and the Sheriff declared in a news release: “We’re happy to report the reunion was a success.”

During a pre-trial hearing on December 15, attorney Ryan Cannon made a vigorous defense of Dena Marie Vindiola.

Attorney Cannon complained that Vindiola was handcuffed while she was on her back patio, surrounded by deputies in tactical gear, and she was emotional and cried while being interrogated. The attorney protested that seven armed officers “pressured her” and one deputy caused her stress by saying, “Stop fucking around.”

The defense attorney produced two witnesses (neighbors) who claimed that Reppenhagen was known to allow her dogs to roam the neighborhood. One witness told the judge, “Her dogs are loose all the time.” The defense attorney pointed out that Finn had no collar on that day.

The attorney asserted that after Vindiola delivered the package, she first tried to make the dog stay in the fenced yard, but the friendly dog pushed through the gate and happily walked with her to the car, and then eagerly jumped into the car without any encouragement. The dog appeared to be a stray and Vindiola never had any intent to steal, according to her attorney.

The dog was never mistreated, and Vindiola has no criminal history, and she lost her job and was kicked out of her apartment because of this incident, her attorney pleaded. He asked the judge to reduce all charges to misdemeanors.

Prosecutor William Heineken charged Vindiola with felony grand theft dog, and two misdemeanor drug charges.

Judge Laura Duffy declined to reduce the felony theft to a misdemeanor and ordered Vindiola to answer all charges. Dena Marie Vindiola, 36, pleads not-guilty and currently remains at liberty, she is next expected in San Diego’s North County Superior courthouse on January 12, to confirm a date for trial in February 2023.

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The defense attorney produced two witnesses (neighbors) who claimed that Reppenhagen was known to allow her dogs to roam the neighborhood.
The defense attorney produced two witnesses (neighbors) who claimed that Reppenhagen was known to allow her dogs to roam the neighborhood.

Denise Reppenhagen was on a waiting list for a golden retriever puppy in early 2021. She saw ultrasounds of the puppies, and then she saw pics of the newborn puppies, and every two weeks she saw new pictures. Reppenhagen picked Finn out of the litter and took him home as soon as she could, at eight weeks after paying $4000. “So I was involved with Finn since he was in utero,” she testified later, in court, after her dog went missing.

Finn was 22 months old when he went missing on October 9. That Sunday morning, she came home from the gym after 10 am and found her dog was gone.

Reppenhagen, 62, said her adult daughter had driven into her garage that morning while she was away at the gym, and her daughter did not realize that Finn had gone out to the street, when her daughter closed the garage door behind her and went into the house. Reppenhagen had left for the gym that morning about 8:15 a.m.

“We frantically started searching.” she went around her neighborhood on Hollyridge Drive in Encinitas and handed out fliers. Finn was micro-chipped (and neutered) when he was one year old, so Reppenhagen contacted the chip company and reported him lost. She used an online dog forum called PAW BOOST.

She contacted local deputies; one deputy came and picked up some fliers to help get the word out.

It was more than two weeks later, on October 26, when one of her neighbors carefully reviewed video from her Ring home security camera. That neighbor saw that on October 9, at 9:43 am, a small white car stopped in front of the Reppenhagen home. It appeared that the female driver of that car was delivering Amazon packages on their street that morning. They could see when the female walked away from Reppenhagen's home back to her car, a fluffy golden retriever was with her, and the dog jumped into the driver’s side door and the car left.

Denise Reppenhagen: “It was overwhelming.”

Reppenhagen did get an Amazon package delivered to her front door that morning, so she checked with Amazon, and they showed her a photo that the delivery person had taken of the package she put on her porch, and her dog Finn was in that photo.

Sponsored
Sponsored

She gave the neighbor’s video to Michael Chen of Channel 10 ABC, who broadcasted a story about a “dog kidnapper.” She hoped someone might recognize the white car or the driver.

“It was overwhelming,” Reppenhagen choked up. And someone did contact the sheriff, having recognized the delivery driver as living in a certain apartment in San Diego.

San Diego County Sheriff’s detective Monica Delatorre showed up with warrants and six other deputies at the address of their suspect, in the 5000 block of Ducos Place in San Diego. Investigators believed that suspect, Dena Marie Vindiola, 36, lived with her boyfriend, who was on probation and had an “extensive criminal history.”

Vindiola never had any intent to steal, according to her attorney.

The search team found a baggie of meth (two grams), and a glass bowl (bong) with white residue in Vindiola’s bedroom closet, according to the detective’s testimony. And they found fentanyl on a chair in her bedroom, and a lock-picking kit in the home.

Deputies found in Vindiola’s car a picture of a golden retriever. It said “My boy” at the bottom of the photo. There were dog feces in the backyard and a tennis ball but no dog.

Investigators saw text messages on Vindiola’s phone, one text asked if someone had any “wakeup” or “white” (meth) and if someone had any “F” (fentanyl).

Investigators found searches for Can you get in trouble if a dog jumps in your car? And Can you get in trouble for dog napping if you don’t have the dog? And If your dog is chipped what does that mean?

During the pre-trial hearing, prosecutor William Heineken seemed to suggest that Vindiola’s thuggish boyfriend might have tried to sell the dog.

There is bodycam video of deputies speaking with suspect Dena Marie Vindiola, on her back patio, they wanted to know where the dog was.

At first Vindiola said she delivered a package and saw a loose dog and the dog jumped into her car; she was going to take it to the pound, but then he started to whine so she went around the corner and dropped the dog off because he was a smart dog and would be able to find his own way home.

Then, she told another story, according to detective Delatorre. Vindiola said the friendly dog followed her to the car and it jumped into her car on its own, and it was a good boy so she took it home. She claimed she only had the dog one day, because her mother liked the dog and wanted to keep it, so she gave it to her mother who lived elsewhere in San Diego County.

The detective told the judge that texts in Vindiola’s phone suggested she had the dog at least until October 14th, and Finn went missing on October 9.

When investigators spoke to the mom, she said she did take the dog, but then she gave it to a neighbor, and that person gave it to a person at her church, and that person took the dog to a shelter.

Detectives contacted an animal shelter in El Centro and learned that Finn was placed with a foster family in Santee while waiting to be adopted. The dog shelter never contacted Reppenhagen because the information on the microchip was incorrect; the detective said there was another name and info on that chip. It was not explained why Reppenhagen was not correctly identified as the owner on the microchip.

On October 29, suspect Dena Marie Vindiola, 36, was arrested. Vindiola was described on the jail website as an Hispanic female, 5 feet 3 inches tall and 130 pounds.

On Sunday October 30, deputies coordinated with the dog owner and the foster family to meet at a Petco store in San Diego for the safe return of Finn. An overjoyed Reppenhagen got her Finn back, and the Sheriff declared in a news release: “We’re happy to report the reunion was a success.”

During a pre-trial hearing on December 15, attorney Ryan Cannon made a vigorous defense of Dena Marie Vindiola.

Attorney Cannon complained that Vindiola was handcuffed while she was on her back patio, surrounded by deputies in tactical gear, and she was emotional and cried while being interrogated. The attorney protested that seven armed officers “pressured her” and one deputy caused her stress by saying, “Stop fucking around.”

The defense attorney produced two witnesses (neighbors) who claimed that Reppenhagen was known to allow her dogs to roam the neighborhood. One witness told the judge, “Her dogs are loose all the time.” The defense attorney pointed out that Finn had no collar on that day.

The attorney asserted that after Vindiola delivered the package, she first tried to make the dog stay in the fenced yard, but the friendly dog pushed through the gate and happily walked with her to the car, and then eagerly jumped into the car without any encouragement. The dog appeared to be a stray and Vindiola never had any intent to steal, according to her attorney.

The dog was never mistreated, and Vindiola has no criminal history, and she lost her job and was kicked out of her apartment because of this incident, her attorney pleaded. He asked the judge to reduce all charges to misdemeanors.

Prosecutor William Heineken charged Vindiola with felony grand theft dog, and two misdemeanor drug charges.

Judge Laura Duffy declined to reduce the felony theft to a misdemeanor and ordered Vindiola to answer all charges. Dena Marie Vindiola, 36, pleads not-guilty and currently remains at liberty, she is next expected in San Diego’s North County Superior courthouse on January 12, to confirm a date for trial in February 2023.

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