(Las Vegas, NV) — The owner of a southwest valley pet store accused of first-degree arson is now facing attempted animal cruelty charges. Gloria Lee, 35, is currently out on bail, but appeared before a judge on Wednesday where she handed over her passport.
Lee was originally charged with arson and conspiracy to commit arson, but 29 additional charges have been filed since last week. Those charges include one count of burglary, one count of conspiracy to commit burglary and 27 counts of attempted cruelty to animals, one for each of the puppies that was inside of the store at the time of the fire.
In court, Chief Deputy District Attorney Shanon Clowers asked the judge to increase Lee’s bail to 400-thousand dollars and take Lee immediately back into custody. Lee bonded out of jail last week. Her initial bail was set at 40-thousand dollars on the two arson charges. The District Attorney’s office is worried Lee is a flight risk.
“She has a conviction in California for larceny. She has a conviction for escape and she also has a conviction for forgery,” Clowers told the judge in court. “The likelihood of conviction in this case is very strong. I can presume she is going to go to prison for this and so her willingness to escape could be increased.”
Clowers went on to call this an “outrageous” case.
Justice of the Peace Joseph Sciscento agreed to take up the bail issue again on Friday. In the meantime, Lee was ordered to house arrest.
Reporters surrounded Lee as she exited the courtroom with her attorneys, but she stayed quiet and was ushered through the back of the building. Her alleged co-conspirator Kirk Bills faces the same charges. An arrest warrant has been issued. Authorities are searching for him.
According to fire investigators, on January 27, Lee was seen on surveillance video opening the back doors of her business, Prince and Princesses Pet Shop on South Rainbow, where she let Kirk Bills inside. Bills allegedly came in with gasoline cans and began spraying the contents of the cans throughout the store, including on the kennels that housed the 27 puppies. Meanwhile, Lee collected office files. Fire was set inside and both suspects left. The sprinkler system as well as the quick action of county firefighters is credited with saving the lives of all 27 puppies.
Those dogs, which range from Yorkshire Terriers to English Bulldogs, are now at Lied Animal Shelter where they are being vaccinated and housed until further notice. As of now, they are not available for adoption.
According to the law, attempted animal cruelty is a Class E Felony. District Attorney Steve Wolfson calls it a “wobbler.” If convicted, a sentencing judge would determine if each charge is a gross misdemeanor or felony.
Animal rights activists who rallied outside the Regional Justice Center Wednesday morning are hoping the judge makes them felony counts. If convicted on felony counts, Lee could face 1 to 4 years in prison for each count.