Victim helps police catch alleged puppy thief during sting operation

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PURCELL, Okla. – Purcell police say they have caught an alleged dog thief, who was selling stolen bulldogs on a popular Facebook page.

Monday, Romeo and Bella Boo went missing from their home in Purcell.

After hearing how heartbroken Tiffany Claunch and her 7-year-old daughter Paige were, officers started working immediately to go get the two bulldogs home to their family.

“She was just screaming crying, ‘My dogs! They’re gone! They’re gone!’ All I was thinking was no way,” says Claunch. “I’m running up and down these roads. I mean I went two blocks, I ran down there and this way and that way and down the alley and I’m screaming their names.”

But there was no sign of Romeo and Bella. Little Paige was left without her best friends.

“She ended up crying herself to sleep that whole night and me and my husband just felt like there was nothing we could do,” says Claunch. “I told her I’ll do whatever it takes to get them back.”

After frantically sharing their story on Facebook and feeling like they would never see Romeo and Bella again, a Grady County Sheriff’s deputy messaged Claunch.

“He screenshot a picture and said, ‘Are these your dogs,” says Claunch. “I said, Yes those are my babies!”

Not even 24 hours after going missing, Romeo and Bella, both worth thousands of dollars, were on sale on Facebook for $600 each.

Claunch says, “Does that not throw up a red flag to anybody?”

From there Purcell Police set up a sting, disguising themselves as buyers wanting to meet up with 18-year-old Joshua Turnpaugh at a gas station north of town.

Detective Corporal Scott Stephens says, “I told him to put the dog down and put his hands in the car and the dog jumps down and runs to me!”

“That’s when they handcuffed them and I got my dogs back,” says Claunch. “And I was never so happy.”

Now Turnpaugh's behind bars, and Romeo and Bella are back in their family’s arms.

“Oh it was fun,” says Cpl Stephens. “We enjoy doing stuff like that where we can have a happy ending.”

“They may be dogs, they may just be our pets but they are a part of our family,” says Claunch. “I mean, they’re our kids.”

The bulldogs were not harmed during their time away from home and were happy to be reunited with their owners.

Turnpaugh is facing a charge of larceny of dogs as personal property.

Turnpaugh’s friends are also facing charges of knowingly concealing stolen property.

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