Commerce man charged in theft of bulldog puppy; woman sought as accomplice

A Commerce man was caught soon after he left a pet store with an expensive purebred English bulldog puppy Tuesday, but lawmen were still looking Wednesday afternoon for his female accomplice, according to an Oconee County sheriffs’ report.

The theft occurred about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Petland on Epps Bridge Parkway, said authorities.

Deputies said the 23-year-old woman distracted employees while the man left the store with the puppy valued at $3,210.

Store owner Ken Davis said a customer told him he saw a man putting a bulldog in the bed of a pickup, then climbing into the pickup himself.

“I went out there and he was laying in the bed of the truck and had the puppy,” Davis said. “I snatched him out of there.”

The suspect only said, “Uh, oh,” when he was pulled from the truck, Davis said.

Tony Thomas Hill, 36, of Hendrix Road, Commerce, was charged with felony theft. He remained in jail late Wednesday with bond set at $15,000.

Jay Johnson, a probation officer with the Athens-Clarke County Department of Probation, was in the store buying fish when he noticed the shoplifting and went outside with the manager.

“I identified myself and said, ‘Look, you’ll stay here until the Oconee County sheriff gets here and straightens out the whole thing,” said Johnson.

Davis said he viewed the store’s security video and observed that when the commotion happened at the pickup, the woman “nonchalantly left.” Davis said he learned later she went inside the nearby Kroger.

Deputies could not locate the woman, but she apparently came back later and left in her pickup, a 2004 Ford F-150.

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