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Santa Fe Police Captain Aric Wheeler said Thursday night that animal cruelty charges are expected to be filed against Los Alamos restaurateur/realtor Jake Smith, soon.
Wheeler said the police have been in contact with the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office about the appropriate charges after the decomposed bodies of two dogs that apparently starved to death were taken from Smith’s Santa Fe apartment earlier this month.
The police and DA are working to determine whether to file felony or misdemeanor charges.
“There is cruelty to animals at different levels and we are looking at previous case law,” Wheeler said. “We have to determine what type of cruelty to animals case this falls under.”
Wheeler and the police department want to file felony charges but it is not their call.
“From the way I understand it, a felony charge has to have physical abuse and a lot more intent,” Wheeler said. “So that is what we are trying to determine. Obviously, we feel there is intent because there was no proactive attempt to save the animals.
“We want to look at case law out there. There are a lot of cases concerning abuse and abandoning animals. The DA’s office wanted to look into that further and see if there is case law there, especially when it comes to animals that have been abandoned where they suffered and they ended up losing their lives.”
Wheeler meanwhile, said the police department is trying to find Smith and is pursuing at least four leads as to his whereabouts.
A source told the Los Alamos Monitor that Smith could be in California and Wheeler confirmed that is one of the leads the department is working.
“We heard he might be in San Francisco,” Wheeler said. “We also received information that he may be in state.”
Smith’s mother, Denise Lane, said in an email Tuesday that she had talked to her son last week. Wheeler said that he believes Smith has been in contact with friends and family in the past week, as well.
Wheeler said once the charges are filed, there will be a warrant issued.
“Once the warrant is in the system, then we can actually contact those jurisdictions and hopefully have them bring him back to Santa Fe,” Wheeler said. “Right now, we are looking at it and it would be helpful for us not to charge him at this point, but actually contact him and conduct an interview with him and essentially get his take on what actually took place.”
Wheeler said there are a lot of rumors and traffic on Facebook in regard to the scenario of why the dogs were left in that condition.
“But none of that is factual to us,” Wheeler said. “We have not received a statement from him. We have to sit down and gather the information and see what the charges will be.”