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Kennel Owners Receive Extended Sentence In Dog Deaths

The owners of a Gilbert kennel where 23 dogs died of heat exhaustion two years ago received their sentence Friday. Todd and Malesia Hughes previously agreed to serve 23 days in jail when pleading guilty in June to animal cruelty and facilitation to commit fraudulent schemes, in regard to the deaths at the Green Acres kennel in Gilbert.

The judge decided to extend the time on the agreement, giving the couple each 60 days in jail, plus three years of probation and 230 hours of service.

While the justice process has concluded, the pet owners will be affected forever.

Valerie Collins was one of many owners who gave emotional statements at the sentencing. Her voice breaking, she described how she imagined her dogs’ last moments.

“They would have suffocated each other because there was so little space that they would have fallen over on to each other and created a pile of heat, and panting, and mass, and prolonged suffering,” she said. “The way my dogs died was just horrific.”

Heather Wicker said the Hughes' written apology letters to the pet owner, but they were “not acceptable” to her.

“There were a little too late,” Wicker said. “Having been lied to for years and told multiple different stories by the defendants, it’s clear that there’s no guilt for their decision. Only getting caught for treating animals the way they did.”

When senior field correspondent Stina Sieg was 22, she moved to the desert. She hasn’t been the same since. At the time, the Northern California native had just graduated from college and was hankering for wide-open spaces. So she took a leap and wrote to nearly every newspaper in New Mexico until one offered her a job. That’s how she became the photographer for a daily paper in the small town of Silver City. And that’s when she realized how much she loved storytelling. In the years since, the beauty of having people open up and share their stories — and trust her to tell them — has never gotten old to Sieg. Before coming to KJZZ, Sieg was also a writer and photographer at newspapers in Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Moab, Utah; and the Smoky Mountains town of Waynesville, North Carolina. She always had her hand in public radio, too, including hosting Morning Edition on a fill-in basis at WNCW in North Carolina. It’s still the best music station she’s found. When she’s not reporting, chances are Sieg is running, baking, knitting or driving to some far-flung town deep in the desert — just to see what it looks like.