The story of a woman’s tireless search for her missing dog resonated with animal lovers worldwide. For three long seasons, Mary Wolfe searched, waited, and wondered: would she ever see her dog again? In June 2013, more than eight months after Nahla’s disappearance in Seattle, Washington, Mary finally found her missing dog – and now she’s searching for justice, as well. According to animal attorney Adam Karp, who announced Mary’s civil case today, Nahla’s theft – and Mary’s harassment – have resulted in a civil suit.
“Sadly, thieving animals is not an unheard of phenomenon. However, I do believe the back story to Ms. Wolfe finding, losing, and recovering Nahla, along with the efforts by individuals to harass, thwart, and distract her search, is one-of-a-kind,” Karp said today.
Karp stated today that at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15, Christina (Chris) Riley, 43, and her partner, Kattianna Rouse, 36, were served with civil suit papers. Over several weeks, multiple attempts to serve Riley and Rouse had failed.
According to a declaration of due diligence dated July 29, 2013, a document server attempted to serve Riley and Rouse first on July 17 at 6:15 p.m.
The document states: "There are two vehicles in the driveway…There is a light on inside and I can hear a dog barking inside. I knocked several times. No answer." The same day at 8:50 p.m., the document states: "I could hear voices inside prior to knocking. The voices ceased. No answer. I drove down the street and called Riley’s cell number; it rang several times and then went to a message stating 'The customer’s voice mail is not set up to receive voice mails.'”
The document server made multiple attempts to serve Riley and Rouse again on July 22, 23, 24, and 25 at Riley and Rouse’s home and at Riley’s place of employment. Law enforcement was finally contacted for assistance.
On Aug. 15 at 8:30 a.m., King County Deputy Peter Thalhofer served Riley at her home. The document states: "Though standing face to face, [Riley] directed me to serve her attorney and would not physically accept the documents, so I placed them inside her door. She then threw them back out, saying that she was not served and never touched them."
According to an amended complaint document for Case No.: 13-2-18266-1 SEA Mary Wolfe is listed as the Plaintiff vs. Christina Lynn Riley, the domestic partnership/community of Christina Lynn Riley and Kattianna Rouse, and Does 1-10, Defendants.
The document further states: "On information and belief, Defendants DOE 1-10 aided, abetted, and conspired with Riley to abduct Nahla from Seattle on Sept. 27, 2012. When their identities have been ascertained, Wolfe will amend the complaint to name them. That evening, Riley, alone or with associates, took Nahla from in front of Kate’s Pub, knowing she had no such authority, and knowing Wolfe was Nahla’s lawful owner. Riley had been following, and even “Liked” a post to, Wolfe’s “Help Find Nahla” Facebook page.
The document continues: Riley intentionally concealed her wrongdoing. Wolfe reported Nahla’s theft to the Seattle Police Department, which opened an investigation. Immediately following her disappearance, Wolfe canvassed the area, with the aid of friends and Good Samaritans.
"Wolfe’s tireless efforts included posting flyers; calling for Nahla; notifying shelters, rescues, and humane societies in several States of her disappearance and lodging lost/stolen dog reports; posting on Craigslist, Facebook, blogs, and other social media; trying to solicit interest from media; paying third parties to hang signs and do intersection alerts; hiring Pet Amber Alert; and diligently searching through Jun. 3, 2013."
The document continues: "On June 3, 2013, Wolfe found Nahla with the aid of subpoenaed subscriber information and IP addresses obtained pursuant to this court’s order of May 8, 2013 and the support of King County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Melvin Dickson, who removed Nahla from Riley and Rouse’s residence on Jun. 3, 2013.
"Prior to June 3, 2013, third parties harassed Wolfe through email, Facebook, Craigslist, phone calls, and random blog posts. On information and belief, these third parties possessed Nahla, or concealed Nahla’s whereabouts. On further information and belief, Riley was an associate of those third parties.
"Nahla’s theft, and the harassment that ensued by Defendant Does, has caused Wolfe tremendous emotional distress and economic loss. Wolfe intends to seek money damages in excess of $10,000. Accordingly, this case is not subject to RCW 4.84.250-.280."
Nahla went missing in Seattle on Sept. 27, 2012 when Nahla and Mary were traveling from Denali, Alaska to her home state of Colorado. Mary, now 24, was concerned about flying with her Husky/Australian Shepherd mix and traveled by ride share to alleviate her dog’s stress.
She had no idea just how long – or just how twisted – their journey home would be.
Over the course of eight months, Mary chased hundreds of false leads, updating people on her Help FIND Nahla Facebook page. Throughout her search, Mary was harassed via email, Facebook, and on Craigslist. Some Craigslist posts stated: "Welcome to Maryslist (Hell)” while others threatened physical violence. Mary received tips to send her to each corner of the United States, making false flyers from Oklahoma and fabricating sightings of Nahla.
But there’s a funny thing about the Internet – everything is traceable.
And everything was traced.
Mary, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art, did some tracing of her own. The faces of that fateful September night were indelibly etched in her mind. She’d made a sketch of one person in particular. On June 2, Mary flew from Colorado to Washington, sketch in hand, to track leads.
Mary’s search led her to Vashon Island, where she finally saw her dog in a back yard of a home. Shaking with disbelief, fright, and excitement, she immediately called the police.
The police report stated that an officer met Mary at 4:45 p.m. on June 3. King County Deputy Melvin Dickson was apprised of the case, including Mary’s Seattle Police Department theft report, case #12-329701.
Mary showed Deputy Dickson veterinary paperwork and several photographs of Nahla, informing him that she’d just seen Nahla minutes prior to his arrival. And then she provided the sketch that she’d made so many months before: the face of one of the smokers who had been outside the pub that night.
When Dickson knocked on the door, he saw a very familiar face: Chris Riley, Mary’s sketch come to life.
Mary anxiously watched from the police car as Deputy Dickson spoke with Riley and Rouse. He stated that he was investigating a dog theft complaint and showed them a picture of Nahla.
“I couldn’t tell what they were saying,” Mary recalled. “I was so worried. I was so scared that they’d say they didn’t have Nahla, and they’d move and hide her again.”
Deputy Dickson’s report stated: “I could hear several dogs inside the house barking as we were out on the front porch. I told Riley that she needed to retrieve the dog immediately and turn it over to me, so I could reunite it with its rightful owner. Riley then went inside, got the dog, and brought it out to the porch. I took the dog out to my vehicle where Wolfe positively identified it as being ‘Nahla’.”
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Mary said. “It didn’t feel real.”
Nahla was placed in the police car’s back seat and Deputy Dickson returned to the home. Mary was in the front seat, separated from Nahla by a barrier between the front and back seats.
Mary pressed her hands against the barrier and Nahla pushed her face against it in return. Nahla was shaved, most likely to disguise her appearance, and she was thinner, but it was definitely her. After so much time, it was finally her.
The report continued: “I mirandized Chris Riley, at which time she stated that she understood, waived her constitutional rights, and agreed to talk to me. Riley stated that she found the dog wandering around in the SoDo District [of Seattle] in mid-October. Riley stated that the dog looked like it was suffering from malnutrition and in need of care. Riley also stated that the dog had open wounds that appeared to have been caused by a rope collar that was around its neck.
"Riley stated that she took the dog home to care for it and later took it to a veterinarian. Rouse agreed with Riley’s version of the condition of the dog. Riley stated that she and Rouse posted flyers in various locations to try to find the owner, without success. I asked Riley if she was familiar with Kate's Pub and if she had ever gone there. Riley stated that she and Rouse were married at Kate's Pub and that she had gone there numerous times.”
The report continues: “I asked Riley if she remembered talking to the dog's owner at Kate's Pub. She said that she had talked to many dog owners, but was adamant that she never talked to Wolfe.
“Riley emphatically denied taking the dog from the pub and once again repeated that she found it in the SoDo District [of Seattle]. Riley stated that she only took the dog home out of concern for its health.”
The report concludes: “Wolfe stated that she only wanted to take her dog and head back to Colorado. She was not interested in any further law enforcement action. I released the dog to Wolfe, at which time she left the scene.”
But Wolfe – and those who supported her – were interested in legal action. Wolfe had already retained renowned animal law attorney Adam Karp.
When Deputy Dickson returned to the car, he moved the partition and Mary pushed her body through to be with Nahla. The happy dog barked and yelped with joy as the two embraced for the first time in more than eight months.
According to Karp, Mary Wolfe is seeking reasonable attorney’s fees at $300 per hour.
"The defendants should prepare to pay far more than $10,000, and depending on how much they evade, obfuscate, and lie, conceivably in the six-figure range," stated Karp.
Chris Riley and Kattianna Rouse were both called today for comment. Neither party answered their phone, but Seattle Pets Examiner would like to hear their side of this story.
If you would like to support Mary Wolfe’s civil case, you can send donations to:
114 W. Magnolia St. Ste. 425
Bellingham, WA 98225
And 100% of the proceeds from all Seattle Pets Examiner articles pertaining to Nahla will be donated to Mary’s account.
Seattle Pets Examiner will continue this story at a later date. Please watch for future updates.
And the Help FIND Nahla Facebook page, which was originally created to help find one dog, continues to help lost pets find their homes.
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