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Owners reunited with East Haven dogs stolen in vehicle Sunday

The man who allegedly stole the car outside a Dunkin' Sunday later crashed in Milford where the dogs were recovered.

EAST HAVEN, Conn. — Two beagle-hound mixes are back home in East Haven after being stolen alongside the car they were in, Sunday.

Around 6 a.m., Dunkin' security footage shows Richard Franco going into the store. His two dogs, Rascal Flats and Darius Rucker, were in the back seat as the car was running, unlocked with the air conditioning on. Within forty seconds of leaving the vehicle, a man is seen entering the car and driving away.

Credit: East Haven Police Department
Dunkin' security footage shows a man enter an unattended vehicle and drive off with it Sunday with two dogs in the back seat.

"I thought about my dogs, I called 9-1-1 quick and then I called my wife," Franco said. "All I was thinking about is my dogs are in that car."

RELATED: Missing Milford dog 'Leo' found safe

His wife, Lucille Palange, said she was shocked and didn't know what to think when she heard what happened. She posted on social media asking for help.

"Thinking 6:30 in the morning who would jump in a car with two dogs and drive away like that?" she said. "You don’t realize how close you are with people until something like this happens."

They got in their other car and tried searching, but had no luck. Others in the neighborhood joined the search. The car ultimately crashed in Milford, three towns over.

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Palange says a random person who saw her posts on Facebook followed the car until police arrived. She says it's thanks to the power of social media her two dogs, whom they rescued from a Tennessee kill shelter in 2020, are home.

"It says there’s still good people in the world too. There’s people that care," she said.

Police arrested Sean Kelly, 52, of New Haven, and charged him with Larceny 3rd Degree, Assault of a Public safety Officer, Engaging an Officer in Pursuit, Reckless Driving, Reckless Endangerment, Interfering with an Officer (2 counts) and Failure to submit to fingerprints. He was held on $75,000 bond and scheduled to be arraigned Monday. 

He also had an active arrest warrant out of Orange and a Remand to Custody Order from Probation. 

Police said Kelly engaged the officers in pursuit once he was spotted. Police  made two attempts to use stop sticks, which were unsuccessful. The vehicle attempted to drive onto the train tracks. After numerous commands, Kelly exited the vehicle. During the investigation, Kelly spat at an officer in the face. He was uncooperative during the investigation and refused to be fingerprinted or photographed. 

The couple says their car is now at an autobody shop because it wasn't starting and estimates a thousand dollars in damage. They say they didn't care about the car but were rather concerned about the safety of their pets.

The car crashed near a train rail in Milford. Metro-North tells FOX61 that just before 1 p.m. a single train from New York City to New Haven was delayed because of the incident. Within 30 minutes, the line was delayed until 3 p.m.

RELATED: 4 Fast Facts about dogs in hot weather

Credit: Richard Franco
Metro-North says a whole line was disrupted Sunday because of the incident.

"He didn’t get on the tracks," Franco said. "He was going on the stones and the car stopped."

A similar event happened in Milford just three days prior when a man's car and dog were stolen outside a DiBella's Subs shop. The car was later found and eventually, the golden doodle was as well.

"I take that people don’t care anymore. That you can’t trust anybody. That you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times," Palange said.

They say the dogs were scared, tired, and skittish. The temperature in the area peaked at 92 degrees Sunday. Palange said the damage that could have been done to the dogs in that weather stayed on her mind.

The dogs are microchipped but not with GPS.

Credit: FOX61
Richard Franco and Lucille Palange two dogs were stolen Sunday along with their vehicle and later found.

"They’re precious to me," she said. "They’re my lifeline. They’re my protection. They’re like my kids."

She says this is a lesson to them and others to not leave possessions unattended. They are grateful to the man who found the vehicle and helped bring their dogs home after seven hours.

Tony Black is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. He can be reached at tblack@fox61.com. Follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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