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A valuable purebred dog stolen off the porch of a Maplewood home and held for ransom has yet to be found, according to charges against two people.

Chanessa R. Gipson, 34, and Christopher S. Brigham, 24, were both charged Tuesday in Ramsey County District Court with two felony counts of theft in connection with them stealing a French bulldog named Pablo on May 8.

While Gipson and 3-year-old Pablo have yet to be located as of late Wednesday morning, according to the County Attorney's Office, Brigham was arrested Tuesday afternoon by police in Minneapolis on an unrelated weapons allegation.

Police say this woman stole a dog off a residential porch in Maplewood on May 8.
Police say this woman stole a dog off a residential porch in Maplewood on May 8.

Maplewood Police Department

Pablo's owner, Lynnea Sterling, told police she had paid $10,000 for the dog. The law of supply and demand has made the breed especially expensive. Frenchies are challenging to breed and have small litters. The American Kennel Club's latest annual ranking of the most popular breeds has the French bulldog at the top, based on its registration statistics.

Sterling said in a brief phone interview that she went to Brigham's neighborhood and heard from residents that "he was just walking up and down the street trying to sell him to anyone. ... [The dog is] probably making people pretty angry. He throws up when he doesn't have the right food."

According to the charges:

Sterling told police Pablo had escaped from her backyard in the 1400 block of E. Skillman Avenue and made his way to the front porch. Home surveillance showed a woman, later identified as Gipson, taking the dog.

On May 11, Sterling received a Facebook message from a man who said he wanted $500 for Pablo's safe return. Sterling said she could afford only $100.

She received from him a photo and a video verifying that he had the dog, and she told the man that Pablo was blind in one eye and needed medication for his early onset blindness. She stopped hearing from the man after trying to arrange for a place to pay for Pablo's freedom.

Police identified the man as Brigham based on his Facebook photos that showed his distinctive gang tattoos.

Sterling later received a phone call from a man who did not identify himself and told her that Brigham and Gipson "scout out dogs who are lost or run away, then take dogs and either sell them for profit or sell them back to the owners for a reward or a finder's fee," the charges read.

A police investigator called and texted the man's number warning Brigham of legal trouble if he failed to return Pablo immediately. Brigham replied in a text that he turned over the dog to a woman.

Pablo's owner told the investigator that Gipson called her, said Brigham still had the dog and she wanted to talk to police.

Gipson told the investigator over the phone that she saw the dog in traffic and had to stop her vehicle to avoid hitting him. She claimed she knocked on several doors trying to find the dog's home before deciding to keep Pablo until an owner came forward. She said she's an animal lover and would try to get the dog back.

The investigator got Brigham on the phone, who replied with profanities and said, "And I plead George Floyd, and I'll see you in court."