Fire-lighting puppy store owner 'a danger'

KEN RITTER
Last updated 10:43 08/02/2014

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A Las Vegas pet shop owner who prosecutors say was seen on security cameras torching her store with 27 puppies inside was handcuffed and taken to jail on Friday after a judge raised her bail by more than US$250,000 (NZ$302,000).

Animal rights advocates who held signs outside the courthouse hailed the determination by Justice of the Peace Janiece Marshall that defendant Gloria Eun Hye Lee, from South Korea, is a danger to the community and a flight risk.

The judge raised Lee’s bail amount from US$40,000 to $310,000 two days after prosecutor Shanon Clowers filed additional charges and said Lee’s criminal record included felony and misdemeanours convictions that included a 2001 escape in California.

Las Vegas firefighters rescued the puppies alive and credited fire sprinklers with dousing flames early January 27 inside the Prince and Princess pet store southwest of the Las Vegas Strip. Lee, 35, faces felony charges of arson, burglary and conspiracy, plus 27 counts of attempted animal cruelty that could be tried as felonies or misdemeanours. 

Her attorney Tom Pitaro lost his bid on Friday to keep Lee under house arrest. He noted that she has lived in Las Vegas since 2003 and is a US citizen. She has a South Korean passport. Clowers, a chief deputy Clark County district attorney, derided attempts by the defence to minimise the allegations against Lee.

‘‘To call her not a danger to the community is absolutely astonishing,’’ Clowers said. ‘‘Her and her boyfriend poured gasoline throughout the puppy store and lit it on fire.’’

Court records say security video shows Lee and a man identified as Kirk Bills setting the puppy store fire, and Lee removing files from the building.

Police were seeking Bills, 27, on an arrest warrant.

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- AP

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