Rough Road Rescue president and founder Steve Svehla was arrested last week and charged with felony stealing in the wake of year-long civil court case over an adopted dog.
The charge against Svehla, 57, of Perryville, stems from an incident earlier this month when the rescue owner violated a court order to return Mack, a boxer mix, to his owner, Jamie Patterson of Perryville.
Patterson had originally adopted Mack from Rough Road for a $40 adoption fee and a $15 microchip fee, but after the dog made several escapes from her yard, Svehla reacquired the dog after offering a $500 reward to help find him.
Svehla claimed Patterson had violated the adoption contract and declined to return Mack. In turn, Patterson, a former Rough Road volunteer, filed suit.
Perry County Associate Circuit Judge Craig D. Brewer ruled in Patterson’s favor and a Missouri appellate court upheld the decision, ordering Mack be returned to Patterson, more than a year after he had initially run off.
Instead of handing over the dog, Svehla concocted a detailed deception, claiming that Mack died months earlier from a chronic condition and handed over a box of what he claimed were Mack’s ashes.
Days later, Svehla admitted the lie and finally returned Mack to Patterson.
In a probable cause affidavit filed in Svehla’s arrest, Perry County Deputy Jason D. Kelly wrote that, on Aug. 11, Patterson informed officers that she was at the Perry County Sheriff’s Office to claim Mack from Svehla.
“Patterson arrived with her children and Steve handed Patterson a wooden box which Steve claimed to be Mack’s remains,” Kelly wrote. “Steve informed Patterson [that] Mack had passed away in the month of May of 2017. Steve also handed Patterson a letter he received from a vet showing Mack had recovered from a prior illness in December of 2016.
“Patterson was persistent and did not believe Mack was dead. Patterson contacted all of the known surrounding crematories for animals and none of them cremated an animal for Steve.“
According to Kelly, he collected the wooden box and the contents from Patterson’s attorney, Zach Rozier, and placed them into evidence with the Perry County Sheriff’s Office.
“Rozier emailed me a letter Patterson received from Steve, which was a letter drafted on Dec. 28, 20l6, stating Mack had been ill, but has recovered from the illness,” Kelly wrote. “Surveillance video was obtained from the Perry County Sheriff’s Office showing both incidents at the Perry County Sheriff‘s Office.”
Perry County prosecuting attorney Thomas Hoeh filed charges against Svehla last week and he was arrested soon after.
Following the arrest, Svehla’s attorney, Travis Bargeon of Cape Girardeau filed to change judges in the case, which would originally be heard in Brewer’s court.
In convicted of the Class D felony, Svehla could face up to seven years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.