Waterville police on Wednesday arrested a Winslow woman and her boyfriend who they believe arranged in October for her two dangerous pit bulls to be stashed out of state, just as Maine’s highest court upheld a decision to have the dogs euthanized.

Danielle Jones, 28, and Brandon Ross, 33, of 12 Lucille Ave. in Winslow were arrested at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and charged with refusing or neglecting to comply with a dangerous-dog court order, a misdemeanor, said Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey. The couple were arrested as they arrived for work at The Muddy Paw, a pet grooming business they own on Bay Street in Winslow, he said.

Jones’ pit bulls, Bentley and Kole, killed a dog and seriously injured a woman last year on Lucille Avenue in Winslow.

Massey said police followed a trail of text messages and phone numbers to determine that Jones went to New Jersey after she took the dogs for a walk Oct. 24 outside the Humane Society Waterville Area on Webb Road in Waterville. The walk came just after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court had upheld an earlier lower court decision ordering the dogs euthanized.

Jones told shelter officials at the time that the dogs slipped their leashes and ran off into the woods, but police did not buy her story. Police have not yet been able to locate the pit bulls but continue to search, according to Massey.

Among the evidence police say they have against Jones and Ross are phone records and text messages illustrating a concerted effort to hide the pit bulls and then take them to New Jersey to an animal adoption agency Jones had called several times. She made or received more than 90 calls the day the dogs disappeared, police say.

Waterville Detective Kyle McDonald arrested Jones and Ross with help from Waterville and Winslow police officers, Massey said. McDonald has been working the case since the dogs disappeared and on Tuesday obtained arrest warrants for Jones and Ross, he said.

The couple were taken to the Waterville Police Department and released on $2,000 cash bail. They are scheduled to appear Feb. 26 in Kennebec County Superior Court, Massey said.

“They both have conditions as part of their bail, as part of the arrest warrants, not to own or possess any new dogs,” Massey said. “They can keep any dogs they currently have; however, that does not apply to their business. She will continue to be able to work their business, which is The Muddy Paw.”

Massey said McDonald and other officers spent a lot of time investigating Jones’ movements, both locally and out of state, after the pit bulls disappeared. That required detectives to contact people both within and outside of Maine, and the officers were persistent, working through tedious details and connecting all the dots, according to Massey.

“It was a very labor-intensive investigation that included going through numerous telephone logs for cellphone and texts,” he said.

Contacted by phone at her business Wednesday afternoon, Jones referred questions to her attorney, Darrick Banda.

“Please don’t call here again,” said Jones, who previously has admitted lying to the Morning Sentinel about whether she owns her business.

ITEMS SEIZED

Police say they worked closely with the District Attorney’s Office over the last several weeks on the case, which actually started more than a year ago.

On Aug. 30, 2016, Sharron Carey was walking her Boston terrier, Fergie Rose, down Lucille Avenue near her home, when Jones’ pit bulls, Bentley and Kole, broke free from their yard at 12 Lucille Ave. The pit bulls, a term used to encompass a variety of bull terriers but that is not a specific breed, attacked Carey and her dog. Fergie Rose died later that day and Carey was injured seriously.

After the incident, Jones was charged with two counts of keeping dangerous dogs. Court documents say Ross also was charged with keeping a dangerous dog and a dangerous dog violation. The district court ordered the dogs euthanized. Jones appealed to the higher court, but on Oct. 24 this year that court upheld the lower court decision.

Massey said the court decision was rendered around 11 a.m. that day. Jones showed up around noon at the Humane Society Waterville Area, where the dogs had been ordered to be housed last year by the court, and took them for a walk.

Twenty minutes later, she returned to the shelter and said they had slipped away from their leashes.

Massey said it was unusual that she was allowed to walk the dogs, albeit in an enclosed area, for the entire year they were housed there. On Oct. 24, she wanted to walk the dogs by herself, he said.

Former shelter director Lisa Smith said after the dogs disappeared that Jones typically had walked the dogs with Ross, but she was alone that day.

Police on Oct. 30 searched both Jones’ and Ross’ home at 12 Lucille Ave. and The Muddy Paw pet grooming salon and spa on Bay Street, seizing items including two iPhones, two iPads, a laptop computer, an Apple MacBook and a Swann Security System. On Nov. 2, McDonald applied for and was granted a search warrant for the couple’s cellphone and Facebook records and received records Nov. 3 and 5, according to a police affidavit filed in Waterville District Court supporting the warrant.

The court documents, signed by McDonald, say Jones received or made 93 phone calls Oct. 24, the day the pit bulls disappeared. At 11:27 a.m., she got a call from her then-lawyer, Thom Page, after the court notified him of the supreme court’s decision via email at 11:02 a.m., according to the documents. Jones then received or made another six calls to Page before 1:05 p.m.

Humane Society staff members told McDonald that Jones showed up at the shelter between noon and 1 p.m.

“It was also reported to me by staff at the Humane Society that Danielle claimed to not have heard from her lawyer and that she hadn’t heard about the court’s decision,” McDonald wrote in the court documents.

McDonald wrote that Jones made several calls Oct. 24 to other people right after speaking with Page, including to her boyfriend, Ross. She made or received another 20 calls to his number before 1 p.m. and received or made an additional 21 calls from his number throughout the day.

“It was reported to me by the Humane Society Director Lisa Smith that she heard that Brandon was at a doctor’s appointment (possibly a sleep study) and that’s why he wasn’t with Danielle at the shelter on 10-24-2017 when she took the two pit bulls.”

‘THEY ARE SLEEPING’

Jones also made and received several calls from a friend to whom Ross also sent a text message at 3:14 p.m. on Oct. 24, according to the court document.

“Hey its bran, how are they doing?”

“They are sleeping,” the friend texted back to Ross.

“Thank you so much we are just waiting for things to play out until dark and then we be back,” Ross texted back.

“No worries bro I’m glad to help.”

At 5:28 p.m., Jones called the friend. Then, at 5:30 p.m., Ross texted him: “About to be at your house.”

Jones also called Greyhound Angels Adoption and Boarding, in Millville, New Jersey, several times that same evening and received calls from the phone number of the business. McDonald called police in Millville and spoke with the animal control officer there who said Greyhound Angels Adoption and Boarding had an upcoming court date because of a “non-license issue.” The animal control officer went to the business and looked around and did not see any pit bulls, according to the document.

Jones’ cellphone records show she traveled out of state, going as far south as New Jersey on Oct. 24. She made several calls after 1 a.m. Oct. 25, and the phone did not start hitting off a tower in Waterville until 2 p.m. Oct. 25.

When police searched Jones’ home Oct. 30 on Lucille Avenue in Winslow, she told McDonald she didn’t have a cellphone because it broke when the pit bulls got loose Oct. 24; but her phone records show she called Page, her attorney, on that phone Oct. 30, according to the court papers. She also made several other calls from the phone on that and the next day.

“It appears that on 10-31-2017, Danielle traveled back out of the state of Maine and traveled as far south as New York and New Jersey as her cell phone was hitting off a New York tower and a New Jersey tower.”

McDonald wrote that he believes Jones and Ross “conspired with other people to steal the two pit bulls from the Humane Society,” failing to comply with the court order.

McDonald says he contacted a woman at Greyhound Angels Adoption and Boarding who said she is the company’s director. The woman said she did not know anything about any pit bulls and didn’t remember speaking with Jones, despite records showing she had exchanged three separate calls.

Massey said Wednesday when detectives tried to talk to Jones after she returned to Maine on Oct. 25, she declined and referred questions to her attorney.

ATTORNEYS PUSH BACK

Banda, the Augusta-based attorney representing Jones, said in a phone interview Wednesday that he had not had a chance to read the police affidavit in the case, but his first reaction was that the charge against Jones and Ross is probably one of the most outrageous things he has seen in his years of practicing law. Banda said he is confident either that the case against Jones will be dismissed or she will be acquitted.

“I’m not exaggerating to say that this decision to charge is probably one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen in over 15 years of practice,” he said.

He said Jones did not have legal custody of the pit bulls when they disappeared — the humane society did — and Jones had no legal responsibility to comply with the euthanasia order.

“She had no power over that,” Banda said.

Scott Hess, of Augusta, is representing Ross in the case. Hess said in an email Wednesday afternoon that he fully expects “Ross will be acquitted at trial, assuming a judge does not throw the whole thing out first.”

He said the state has no basis to charge Ross with violating a court order to which he is not a party, and Hess plans to file a motion to dismiss promptly.

“What is most disturbing is that the State asked for a high cash bail and conditions that prohibit Brandon from leaving the State right before the holidays,” Hess’ email says. “This is completely unheard of in a case where a Maine resident is charged with this type of misdemeanor, and strikes me as a thinly veiled attempt to gain a tactical advantage in a weak case that should not have been brought in the first place.”

Asked Wednesday to respond to Banda and Hess’ comments, Deputy Kennebec County District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said in an email that the state submitted an affidavit of probable cause to the court in support of the complaints and the arrest warrants. The court found probable cause and issued the arrest warrants, he noted.

“A bail commissioner appointed by the court reviewed the cases and set bail with conditions. Neither the Waterville Police Department nor the District Attorney’s Office sets bail,” Cavanaugh’s email says. “While attorneys retained by criminal defendants frequently don’t believe their clients are guilty and make incendiary statements to the press in wasted efforts to influence potential jurors, the State will use the normal criminal justice system to resolve these cases instead of media statements.”

“Meantime, these ‘escaped’ dangerous dogs are somewhere and we will continue to try to find them and protect the public before another animal is killed or a person injured.”

Massey, the Waterville chief, said police are not sure where the dogs are, but they speculate that Jones took the dogs to the New Jersey area.

He said McDonald and other officers did great work investigating the case, and the district attorney’s office was of tremendous help as well.

Police continue to investigate, and McDonald is following up on information to try to track down the pit bulls, according to Massey.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17