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Two Libby residents accused of dognapping from animal shelter

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Hagadone News Network | July 9, 2024 12:00 AM

Two Libby residents are facing charges after allegedly breaking into the county animal shelter and stealing a dog.

Ronald Edward Ringsbye is being held in the Lincoln County Detention Center on one felony count of burglary. His bail is set at $25,000.

Michelle Lynne Yeager, 54, is also charged with burglary. She is free after posting $25,000 bail on June 18. Yeager appeared in district court Monday, July 1 and pleaded not guilty. Her next hearing is Aug. 5.

A date for Ringsbye’s arraignment hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Flathead County Sheriff's Office Deputy Andrew Smith and Detective Brandon Holzer investigated the case. Deputy County Attorney Lauren O’Neill filed the charges.

According to Smith’s narrative, he went to the Tobacco Valley Animal Shelter in Libby on the morning of June 10 after an employee called and said the building was broken into and a dog was stolen. The employee showed Smith a window where a metal screen was removed and where she believed someone entered the building.

Tobacco Valley had the contract to run the county shelter, but that expired July 4. Shelter officials cited increasing costs as one reason they opted to discontinue their services.

The employee also showed Smith an empty kennel where a dog named “Shep” was previously held. The dog had bit a person on May 27 and was surrendered to the county. Smith reported that Yeager knew that “Shep” would be euthanized.

Smith noted in the report that he previously crossed paths with Yeager on June 3, who was at the shelter then to release another dog, “Cookie,” who had been deemed a vicious dog by the court. Smith said Yeager asked him if he would let her take “Shep” home. The officer said he couldn’t do it because of the dog’s bite history.

Smith reported Yeager was upset and that “Shep” was scheduled to be euthanized on June 11. 

Smith retrieved security camera video recordings from 5:10 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. June 10. He said he saw an unknown man, later identified as Ringsbye, in the kennel area where “Shep” was located. He also reported seeing a woman he believed was Yeager despite her wearing a hat and hood, which covered her face.

Smith reported Yeager was aggressive toward him and shelter employees since “Shep” was taken to the shelter.

The officer reported the dog recognized the woman and through his body language was excited and happy to see her. In additional video footage, a vehicle was seen parked across Pipe Creek Road, which Smith believed Yeager was driving.

Holzer spoke to Yeager after she was arrested on June 13 for allegedly breaking into the shelter. According to Holzer, Yeager said Ringsbye removed a screen, entered the building and opened the door for her.

Yeager allegedly admitted to taking her dog because she wanted it to be euthanized on her terms. She said her husband put the dog down at their favorite berry patch in the woods.

A conviction for burglary may result in a 20-year term in the Montana State Prison.