Stolen Puppies Found Safe and Sound

Marlene Munoz holds a kitten and six of eight golden retriever

Six of eight golden retriever puppies found; police arrest
Hollister woman they believe was involved in the crime
Hollister – Six of eight three-week old golden retriever puppies stolen during a burglary last week were returned last weekend to their owner unharmed and a Hollister woman police believe was behind the heist is behind bars.

Martha Castaneda, 27, was arrested by Hollister police Sunday evening at her home in the 100 block of Casten Court in conjunction with the puppy-napping and three other residential burglaries over the past month, according to police. The puppies’ owners, Angelica Munoz and Jose Prieto, spent the days following last Tuesday’s burglary playing detectives, which led police to Castaneda.

The eight newborn puppies were taken along with all of Munoz’s 16-year-old daughter Marlene’s clothes and other items, including a Siamese kitten, when Munoz’s home on Clearview Drive was burglarized Tuesday afternoon. The burglars left a pipe used to smoke methamphetamine at the home, causing Munoz and Prieto to worry the puppies would be sold to buy drugs.

Friday morning they received an anonymous tip from a man informing them he knew where the puppies were.

“It’s a crazy story,” Prieto said. “We played Inspector Gadget all week. I didn’t even go to work.”

After making the phone call to Munoz, the anonymous tipster met Munoz and led her to a home on Marne Drive where one of the puppies was being held, she said. The next day the man brought another puppy and the kitten to Munoz’s home, and later that day an acquaintance of Munoz’s sister gave her another puppy, which she returned to Munoz.

With the information garnered from a number of different people, including the man who originally called Munoz, they tracked another puppy to a residence in Salinas, Munoz said.

The other dogs were dropped off by a Salinas resident, who Prieto believes had received them from the people who took the puppies. While the owners are happy to have six of the missing puppies home safe and sound, they would still like to find the remaining two. They believe one was sold to a family in San Francisco, and the final pup’s location is still unknown.

While the man who offered up the original tip about the puppies’ whereabouts eventually led the owners to the other puppies, Prieto said he seemed to have an inordinate amount of knowledge about the dogs’ locations.

“Things are very fishy,” he said. “I have my doubts (about him). He knows all these people’s names and phone numbers (who had the dogs). The cops are investigating this guy, too.”

Castaneda was arrested on suspicion of felony conspiracy, possession of suspected methamphetamine, being under the influence of suspected methamphetamine, bringing drugs into the county jail and burglary, police spokesman George Ramirez said. He would not comment on whether detectives are investigating other suspects in conjunction with the burglaries.

“Additional arrests could be made,” he said.

When Hollister police arrived at Castaneda’s home Sunday, they found many items attributed to three other burglaries that occurred in October, Ramirez said. Those burglaries also occurred during the day, netting the thieves everything from clothing to jewelry to electronics.

During one of the burglaries, a Ford Explorer was also stolen and has yet to be recovered, Ramirez said.

Ramirez said detectives are sorting through the items retrieved from Castaneda’s residence, which could lead to additional victims.

In the meantime, the family is happy to have the purebred dogs back with their mother, Delilah.

“These little puppies have gone through so much,” he said. “These puppies … need someone who can take care of them and nurture them. More than money, it’s the home these puppies are going to.”

For information on buying one of the puppies call Jose Prieto at (831) 261-2878.

Anyone with information regarding the burglaries may contact the Hollister Police Department at (831) 636-4330.

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