On January 27, in Las Vegas, Nevada, 35 year-old Gloria Lee and her accomplice, 27 year-old Kirk Bills set her business on fire, Prince and Princess Puppies Boutique. Surveillance footage recently released to the public shows Lee and Bills committing this horrific crime of pet store arson. Lee was initially arrested after the incident, however Bills, a professional boxer went on the run and was eventually tracked down 10 days later in his hometown, Crown Point, 50 miles south of Chicago. The judge set bail at $310,000 for Lee and Bills and have since been charged with 31 counts of first-degree arson, animal cruelty, burglary and conspiracy. On Wednesday, Bills pleaded not guilty to the charges and Lee’s request to lower bail was rejected while both await trial. If convicted they could spend decades in prison.
The video shows Lee entering the dark and dimmed pet store at around 12:50 a.m., then letting her boyfriend Bills in two minutes later. There were puppies in cages along the wall. Bills was seen drenching a flammable liquid on shelves, merchandise and the area in front of the puppy cages, while Lee was collecting files and paperwork from the office. Then Lee was seen departing the store while Bills continued dousing the store and laying down newspapers. Within minutes the store was engulfed in flames, sadly the dogs were seen backing away from the heat as the store became more consumed by the fire. Bills quickly exited the store, two minutes later the fire alarm set off and the sprinkler system became activated. Fortunately, the sprinklers extinguished the fire until the arrival of firefighters. The sprinklers protected the surveillance video from being damaged in the pet store arson which shows incriminating evidence of this horrific crime. The 27 puppies were left unharmed and have been placed in the care of the Lied Animal Foundation Shelter in Las Vegas. The failed attempt to burn down the pet store caused $100,000 in property damages and was motivated by insurance money.
The 27 puppies that were rescued from the pet shop fire have captured much media attention and are known as the “Arson Puppies.” Hundreds of calls have been made to the shelter, people inquiring about adopting them. Insiders from the shelter said that they have never seen so much public interest in animal adoption like they are seeing with the “Arson Puppies.” The attention the puppies have been receiving has persuaded the Animal Foundation to organize a raffle to get the animals into new homes. The raffle tickets were planned to go on sale March 7 for $250, however it was besieged by much resistance.
Local animal rights groups have claimed that the puppies are not prizes and are being sold on the basis of their connection with the pet store arson case, like they are kids of celebrities. The strongest opposition comes from Donald Thompson, Lee’s estranged husband and co-owner of the pet boutique. He is suing the Animal Foundation for the return of the puppies into his possession and tens of thousands of dollars in damage. As of Tuesday, a Las Vegas judge extended a ban on the puppy raffle until he hears Thompson’s testimony claiming his store ownership and property rights pertaining to the puppies. As for now the puppies remain with the Animal Foundation in the middle of litigation. As for Lee and Bills, the animal-loving public await their trial and hope the surveillance that shows their horrific crime of the pet store arson will render them a harsh conviction.
By Isriya Kendrick