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Pa. Woman pleads guilty in dog-fighting case

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

WEST CHESTER — A Southeastern Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty to running a dog-fighting ring out of the home she shared with her husband and five children and has agreed to testify against him.

Laura Acampora, 34, of Coatesville pleaded guilty Tuesday in Chester County Court to three animal cruelty counts and charges of endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors and criminal conspiracy, according to the Daily Local News of West Chester.

Senior Judge Thomas Gavin told her that he had received multiple letters expressing outrage and demanding a strict sentence, but he would rule based on the facts.

Acampora, who didn't address the court other than answering questions about whether she understood the meaning of her pleas, was granted bail and released from prison.

She and her husband, 34-year-old Shane Santiago of Coatesville, who is scheduled for trial in November, were arrested in December after authorities went to the residence while investigating the remains of dead dogs found in the West Brandywine area.

“When we got into that home what we found was a nightmare,” District Attorney Tom Hogan said at the time of the couple's arrest. “This was a full-scale operation of not only dog fighting, but dog training, dog breeding, and dog killing.”

Investigators said as many as 16 pit bulls were kept in the home, which contained tools used to encourage aggression in the animals. They said plywood barriers were set up around the fighting area, and the walls and floor were spattered with blood.

Assistant District Attorney Priya DeSouza alleged that the couple put on dog fights and exposed their children, who were 3 to 15 years old at the time, to training and the eldest attended fights.

“Her children cared for the pit bulls that were being trained to attack other creatures,” DeSouza told the judge. She said one of the animals bit the eldest child, and Santiago killed that and another dog by hanging them in the basement. Officials also alleged that another dog was burned alive after fighting.

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