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Plea deal reached in Leechburg lost-puppy case

| Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 12:36 a.m.

A Leechburg couple accused of using a web site to sell a wandering neighborhood puppy pleaded guilty Wednesday to disorderly conduct.

In exchange, the prosecution withdrew three more serious charges against Scott Duff, 41, and Roxanne Duff, 38, of the 600 block of Second Street, the office of Leechburg District Judge James Andring said.

Scott and Roxanne Duff each agreed to pay about $500 in fines and court costs and perform 10 hours of public service. Disorderly conduct is a summary offense.

According to the criminal complaint against the Duffs, a golden retriever and the Rottweiler-mix puppy showed up at the Duff's yard on Labor Day. The older dog was soon returned to the owner, who is also from Second Avenue, but the six-month-old puppy wasn't.

Police said they told Roxanne Duff to call Orphans of the Storm, an animal shelter in Kittanning, or Hoffman Kennels, the borough's dog catcher.

During the investigation, police Chief Mike Diebold asked a baby-sitter and the couple's 5-year-old son if anyone knew about the puppy and the boy allegedly said “his mommy have given it to the woman from the Internet.”

Police said a McKeesport woman paid $50 to Roxanne Duff for the puppy after reading about it on Craigslist.

When police contacted that unidentified woman, she returned the puppy to Roxanne Duff, and the puppy was given back to its owner.

Police charged the couple with not making a reasonable effort to return lost property, two counts of conspiracy, and filing false reports.

On Wednesday, Diebold said the puppy's owner said the plea bargain was appropriate for the Duffs, neither of whom have a police record. Attempts to reach the owner were unsuccessful.

Police didn't want to compel the couple's young son to testify against them, Diebold said.

Attorney Robert Petrosky, who represents the couple, said the puppy wasn't sold on Craigslist but instead was described there with a photo under a “dog found” category.

He said the couple tried to give the dog to police, but they said no and the animal shelters were closed.

“Remember: it was over Labor Day,” Petrosky said.

“Also, who would steal and sell a dog immediately after calling the police about the dog?” he asked.

Nevertheless, he said, the couple decided that ending the case on Wednesday was best for them.

“‘Immediately after?'” Diebold said when asked to comment. “The puppy was on its way to McKeesport within two hours after the entry was placed on Craigslist.”

Contacted separately, Roxanne Duff reiterated that the couple didn't agree with the initial charges, but they wanted to resolve the case.

“You can't imagine the disgusting and upsetting email and letters we have received” from animal lovers, she said.

The couple's minister and about 16 church members sat in the audience before the plea bargain was signed in the event that character witnesses would be needed for the Duffs.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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