Investigators are calling it a senseless act; a missing K-9 officer with the Lee County, Virginia Sheriff's Office was found dead. News 5 has been following the story for a couple of days and learned now their main focus is to find who's responsible for killing the black German shepherd.
The dog went missing earlier this week from the back of his handler's patrol car at a county park. The Sheriff's Office says the dog's partner did leave his car unlocked, but he was only gone for three to five minutes. That's a mistake that's not uncommon.
Investigators are asking two questions: how did the county's K-9 Chase get out of his handler's patrol car, and who did it?
One thing is for sure, it was a bold and brazen move. "At first you would consider it a theft, but at this point we've got on our hands a death," said Lieutenant Fred Rouse with the Lee County Sheriff's Office.
Lieutenant Rouse says Chase was found dead in a ditch off of Route 606 by someone driving by. "Things were collected at the scene, we're going to be looking for some trace evidence. Hopefully that will provide some clues or direction in who may be responsible," Rouse said.
As of right now investigators have pinpointed several people that could be responsible for Chase's death. Investigators actually believe the dog's body had been moved. On Monday, just hours after the dog disappeared, animal control officers spotted the body of a well-kept German shepherd at a dump site. But at the time, they didn't know the Sheriff's Office K-9 was missing. "[Moving the dog] is adding to our case. If this was an accident why are you going to the extent to try and cover your tracks," said Lieutenant Rouse.
The dog will be sent for a necropsy to find the cause of death. In the meantime, there is a huge void at the Sheriff's Office since Chase was a sworn Deputy Sheriff and their main focus is to find his killer. "Because it's just senseless, it really is senseless," added Lieutenant Rouse.
News 5 learned the Sheriff's Office will present to prosecutors the case as if the suspect killed a police officer in the line of duty, which is a capital offense.
Once charges are filed, it's up to the Commonwealth Attorney to make a final decision.