AUGUSTA — One of the owners of two missing pit bulls was involved in a sleep study on the day the dogs disappeared, his attorney told a judge on Monday.

Brandon Ross and Danielle Jones of Winslow each face a misdemeanor criminal charge of failing to comply with a court order in connection with the disappearance of Bentley and Kole. A judge had ordered the animals destroyed after they killed a dog and seriously injured a woman in August 2016 on Lucille Avenue in Winslow.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the euthanasia order on Oct. 24, 2017, but Jones reported them missing.

She said they ran off while she was walking them outside the Humane Society Waterville Area on Webb Road in Waterville.

On Monday, Jones and her boyfriend, Ross, watched from the public area of a courtroom at the Capital Judicial Center as their attorneys sought to suppress information obtained through four separate search warrants. The warrants sought to search the defendants’ residence, business and person for cellphones and other electronic devices, plus information from Verizon and Facebook regarding those devices. The results of those search warrants were impounded by court order.

Scott Hess, representing Ross, said his client was at a sleep study and is being unfairly targeted in the warrants.

“There is virtually nothing that would suggest Mr. Ross was in any way shape or form involved in the disappearance of these animals,” he said.

On Oct. 24, 2017, Jones had gone alone to the shelter to walk Bentley and Kole. Normally she was accompanied by Ross. Shortly afterward she ran back to the building to say they had broken free of their harnesses and run off.

Jones’s attorney, Darrick Banda, argued Monday that the warrants were overboard.

“Our founders were against this practice of general search warrants,” Banda said.

He asked Justice Michaela Murphy to apply a remedy used in a federal case and suppress all of the evidence gathered.

Assistant District Attorney Tracy McCarthy countered by saying that Waterville Police Detective Kyle McDonald, who filed all the affidavits seeking the search warrants, supplied all the necessary information to support those warrants.

“The defense is asking you to ignore common sense,” McCarthy told Justice Michaela Murphy.

She said the investigator knows that the dogs disappeared shortly after the court ruling was made public.

“There’s suspicion all over the place,” McCarthy said.

She said witnesses testified at an earlier trial that Jones was on her phone repeatedly and then Ross arrived there, which is why warrant sought all the electronics.

“We don’t know how she communicated, but one way or the other he shows up,” McCarthy said.

The animals were not reported missing until evening, and a search failed to turn up any sign of them locally. Winslow’s police chief at the time said he believed the dogs were deliberately spirited away to avoid the euthanasia order.

Among the evidence police say they have against Jones and Ross are phone records and text messages illustrating a concerted effort to take the dogs to an animal adoption agency in New Jersey. Police say Jones made or received more than 90 calls the day the dogs disappeared.

Days after the dogs’ disappearance, the Waterville shelter director resigned, saying she felt the shelter personnel were deceived and had let the public down. Lisa Smith had been shelter director for three years.

McCarthy also noted that the couple’s business, the Muddy Paw in Winslow, was closed when officers went there to talk to the couple. When the two eventually arrived home later and police knocked on the door, Jones told them to call her lawyer and provided the phone number.

McCarthy said McDonald sought the defendant’s electronic records over a four-month period.

“This is all about a plan — clearly in the affidavit — a plan to free the dogs and take them away,” McCarthy said.

She said the defendants’ cellphone records indicated they had been in New Jersey and also made a call to their New Jersey attorney, Richard Rosenthal, at 1 a.m. the day after the dogs disappeared. Rosenthal had represented Jones in oral arguments in the appeal.

Murphy said she intended to read the briefs supplied by the attorneys before ruling on the suppression issue.

In the meantime, Banda and Hess asked that the court modify the bail conditions for their clients to permit them to travel outside Maine, saying their clients would like to celebrate Christmas with their families in Florida as they have done in the past. A judge refused them permission to go last year.

Murphy indicated she might grant permission for a specific trip to Florida if given dates and location, but said she did not plan to lift the restriction on out-of-state travel.

McCarthy objected to any changes in bail conditions, saying there was some indication the dogs were in Florida.

“We don’t know where they are,” she said. “The defendants could be reunited with these dogs, these dangerous dogs.”

McCarthy also told Murphy that the trial judge found both defendants to be untruthful.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

filed under: