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August 20, 2014

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In jailhouse call, pet shop owner says fire-starter can’t be ID’d in store’s surveillance video

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Steve Marcus

Kirk Bills and Gloria Lee are charged in the Jan. 27, 2014, arson fire at Prince and Princess Pet Boutique. The two are shown during a Clark County District Court on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

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  • Jailhouse conversation between arson suspects Gloria Lee and Kirk Bills
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Suspects in Pet Shop Fire Plead Not Guilty

Pet shop owner Gloria Lee appears in court at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Lee and co-defendant Kirk Bills pleaded not guilty to charges of torching the pet shop where 27 puppies were rescued, and a judge rejected a bid for lower bail. Launch slideshow »

Gloria Lee was adamant during the phone call.

Authorities already had shown her surveillance footage of the Jan. 27 fire at her Prince and Princess Pet Shop that almost cost 27 puppies their lives. Lee is clearly visible on the surveillance tape, but it is a hooded person who is seen going through the shop, carrying gasoline cans and other accelerants and setting the store on fire.

“Did you see whoever’s face it is?” the other person on the recorded jailhouse conversation asks Lee.

“I told them I don’t know who that is,” Lee said. “They got (mad) at me. You can’t see. You cannot see. You can’t see. I saw. You can’t see. That’s why they were getting mad.”

Prosecutors say the Jan. 29 call was from Lee to her alleged co-conspirator, Kirk Bills, while he still was on the run from authorities. Lee had been jailed earlier in the day, charged with arson and other counts related to the fire.

At the time of the call, Lee’s bail was $62,000. A bail bondsman typically requires 10 percent of the bond in cash — in Lee’s case, $6,200 — to post bail.

“I have three (thousand dollars) on me,” Lee says in the recording, “but the bail is six (thousand).

“Someone needs to come here and sign for me to get out.”

“I can’t come up there and sign you out,” the other voice tells Lee. “They’re looking for me, too.”

The revelation seemed to take Lee by surprise.

“No they’re not,” Lee said, offering assurances that no one else could be identified by viewing the video.

Despite Lee’s best efforts, though, the other voice was noncommittal.

“I’ll do what I can, girl, but I ain’t going up there,” he said.

Bills never did come to the jail to bail out Lee.

Nine days after the phone call, federal authorities caught up with Bills and arrested him in Crown Point, Ind.

Clark County grand jurors have returned separate indictments against Lee, 35, and Bills, 27, charging them each with felony and misdemeanor arson, conspiracy, burglary and attempted animal cruelty. The two remain in the Clark County jail, where bail for each is now set at $310,000.

Grand jury documents, including the jailhouse phone call recording and testimony transcripts, were released this week, and they offer insight into what Lee’s defense might be: That as she was about to enter the shop to do payroll early on the morning of Jan. 27, three men accosted her, forced her to open the shop and set the place on fire.

During the jailhouse phone call, Lee said authorities were getting mad at her because she wouldn’t identify the man seen on the video setting the fire.

“I told them exactly what happened: I was threatened. I don’t know who they are,” Lee said in the call.

Trial for Lee and Bills is scheduled for July 7 in Clark County District Court.

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