Couple endures bizarre, 'nightmarish' ordeal after car is stolen with dog inside

Police say Sam, an 11-year-old Labrador, was still inside a car when it was stolen from outside Dotty's at Southeast 164th Avenue and Division Street on Oct. 8.

A couple told KATU they endured a bizarre, terrible ordeal after their car was stolen with their dog inside.

Police said the car was used in a long crime spree involving more than 100 victims in the Portland metropolitan area.

They said the spree ended in a Safeway parking lot in Sherwood about 30 miles from where the car was stolen.

"It was the worst night of my life, even worse than my dad dying," said Marta, who co-owns the dog and the vehicle. "You can't get any worse than that."

But she and her husband, Jim, who asked KATU not to reveal their last names, said the evening of Oct. 8 started out fun.

The couple left their 11-year-old Labrador, Sam, in their Chevrolet HHR as they went inside Dotty's at Southeast 164th Avenue and Division Street in Portland to enjoy themselves.

Jim left their keys on a table behind him as he played video poker.

"I went to come out to leave and couldn't find my keys," Jim said. "I looked everywhere and my wife walked out and said, 'The car is gone.'"

The couple was horrified, realizing Sam was inside the car.

Police believe a man caught on surveillance video inside Dotty's took the vehicle.

"I felt hysterical. We were crying. It was raining cats and dogs," said Marta. "“The nightmare of waiting for our dog … That was a nightmare … Five hours of hell.”

Marta said out of desperation she gave her number to some people hanging around inside and outside Dotty's, including a woman with blue hair caught on surveillance footage.

Police are looking for her as well.

"They called us at about 11:30 at night and she says, 'I have your dog,'" Marta said regarding her interaction with the blue-haired woman and a third man on a bicycle.

She said she and Jim met them at the MAX station on Northeast 99th Avenue.

"They said, 'Don't bring any police,' which we didn't. We wanted our dog back," said Marta. "I gave her a hundred dollars, told her that, 'Somewhere in you people there's a tiny speck of decency but you're not nice people.' Then we left. We got in our car and left and they said at that time, 'Maybe for tomorrow you can get your car back for $500.'"

Marta said she didn't pay the woman any more money.

At about 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 22, Sherwood Police Officer Randy Johnson said he found their car in a Safeway parking lot in Sherwood.

Johnson said the vehicle looked suspicious and he spotted two men getting out of it.

"Ran the license plate. It returned stolen on a Chrysler PT Crusier and this vehicle was actually a Chevy HHR," Johnson said.

The two suspects, Coty Dingus, 25, of Sherwood, and Corey Smith, 26, of Milwaukie, were arrested soon after.

Johnson said he found an airsoft gun and drug paraphernalia in the car along with other evidence they'd been on a crime spree.

"Lots and lots and lots of suspected stolen mail, credit cards, checks and other property," said Johnson. "The postal inspector's office seized probably close to 200 pieces of mail."

Johnson said the mail was stolen from local mailboxes and that the suspects burglarized Windy Ridge Accounting in Rainier.

"They were making checks," Johnson said. "The suspect would have his name imprinted on this check. A victim account holder’s checking account would be at the bottom of this check.”

Officials with the Washington County Jail said Dingus was released on Dec. 5. He pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a vehicle in the case and was sentenced to 18 months probation. Dingus's previous criminal record includes convictions for forgery, methamphetamine possession, unauthorized use of a vehicle and resisting arrest.

Smith was released from jail the same day. He faces a charge of unauthorized use of a vehicle and is due back in court on Dec. 23.

Johnson said the case is still under investigation and that other suspects are involved.

If you have any information that can help officers, you're asked to call the Sherwood Police Department or the Portland Police Bureau immediately.

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