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Crime: A Happy Ending

Lola, one of two dogs brazenly stolen within hours of each other in November, comes home.

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In January I wrote about Lola, a 20-month-old Norwich terrier that was abducted in November from a car parked near the Newberry Library. The dog has since been found: on February 23 Lola's owner, Mary, got a call from a man named Richard Norwood, who said he and his girlfriend had been taking care of her for a few months. He'd seen one of Mary's signs describing her and offering a reward. He told Mary they'd gotten attached to the dog and were hoping to arrange for visitation after returning her.

Mary asked to meet for an exchange--reward money for dog--and Norwood handed the phone to his girlfriend. She said she was afraid of going to jail, Mary says. "I told her I didn't want anyone to go to jail, I just wanted my dog back." Norwood agreed to meet her at the Burger King at Michigan and 23rd.

Mary then called Sergeant Brian Degenhardt, head of the Chicago Police Department's animal crimes unit, and told him Lola had surfaced. Degenhardt had followed more than 30 leads searching for Lola, and he told Mary one of them had taken him to the house of Norwood's girlfriend's father. Early in the investigation an informant had reported seeing someone from the house walking Lola with another dog. The informant said the other dog looked like a bull terrier named Clementine whose picture had been in the Sun-Times after she was snatched while being walked by a 13-year-old boy. Clementine had been taken within a couple hours of Lola's disappearance. (Someone later contacted Clementine's owner and collected a reward.) The informant also said that after the police stopped by looking for Lola, someone had put the dog in a duffle bag and driven off with her.

That afternoon, Mary met Norwood at the Burger King. Inside, an undercover police officer watching the exchange radioed a play-by-play to officers waiting in squads at a nearby construction site. Mary says she thought the police were there for her protection, but as she handed over the reward and Norwood got ready to drive away, they moved in and pulled him out of the car at gunpoint. The money Mary gave the man wasn't a reward, says Degenhardt. It was a ransom.

The police found pot on Norwood and arrested him on drug charges. But when they questioned him about Lola he claimed to know nothing.

Degenhardt believes that the same person stole Lola and Clementine. "I know who it is," he says. "Can I prove it? Not without the help of the informant." But the informant doesn't want to be involved in a court case, he says. And the parents of the only eyewitness to either of the thefts--the boy who was walking Clementine when she was stolen, who Degenhardt says could tie it all together--don't want him to testify either.

A few days after they got home, Mary took Lola to a vet and had a microchip implanted between her shoulders.

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