Flake, wife plead not guilty in Green Acre dog deaths

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Austin (left) and Logan Flake By Jennifer Thomas Austin (left) and Logan Flake By Jennifer Thomas
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
Austin Flake By Jennifer Thomas Austin Flake By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The daughter and son-in-law of the couple who owns the Green Acre dog boarding facility pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty charges on Thursday morning.

Austin and Logan Flake are scheduled to be back in court on Jan. 2.

The owners and caretakers of the Gilbert boarding facility where 21 dogs died were indicted on multiple animal cruelty charges, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

More than 20 dogs were found dead or injured at Green Acre Dog Boarding near Greenfield and Queen Creek roads on June 21.

Kennel owners Todd and MaLeisa Hughes said the animals died of heat exhaustion after one dog chewed through the air conditioner's power cord, but Maricopa County Sheriff's investigators reportedly found no evidence that a chewed-up wire was to blame.

The Flakes reportedly tried to save the animals by hosing and icing them down, but authorities said they didn't call for emergency assistance before the dogs died.

A veterinarian who performed necropsies on some of the dogs said they likely suffocated to death in the 8-by-12-foot room.

The Hugheses were out of town and had left their daughter, Logan Flake, and son-in-law, Austin Flake, in charge of the animals. Austin Flake is the son of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.

"We were deceived from the moment we dropped our dogs off here, and I believe they were con artists," said Shannon Gillette, whose two golden retrievers died at the facility. "They were our family, and they were killed by these people."

The sheriff's office investigated the deaths and, on Aug. 27, submitted findings to the county attorney's office.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said that this case was one of the toughest and most complex his office has investigated.

"This better set an example that no one is immune when they violate those animal cruelty laws," Arpaio said.

In the grand jury indictment, Todd and MaLeisa Hughes are each charged with 22 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, and one felony count of fraudulent schemes and artifices.

Austin and Logan Flake are each charged with 21 felony counts and seven misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.

The Flakes' attorney, Dennis Wilencheck, said Thursday that the accusations are "completely unfounded" and he will prove that it was nothing but an accident.

"I'm so sickened by them saying it was an accident," said Valerie Collins, who lost two dogs in the tragedy. "There were still dogs alive for four hours. For four hours they didn't get any help, and then they just let them die slowly."

Wilencheck says there is a lot of misinformation in the case and pressure from the dog owners to bring charges against the Flakes, and he intends to file for a new grand jury proceeding.

But attorney John Schill stands behind the demands of the dog owners.

"My clients were grievously wounded by the defendants here and they have a right to ask that they be charged for this crime," he said.

Collins and the other dog owners not only want justice, they want answers.

"I just wanted the truth," she said. "I just want to look in someone's eyes and get the whole story out of them."

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Maricopa County Attorney's Office: Green Acre Boarding Case (Gilbert 23)

Link: More stories about the 'Gilbert 23'