Pictured: Attorney Homero Canales escorts Mayor Grace Saenz Lopez and her sister Gracy Garcia to jail Friday afternoon after the two were indicted earlier in the day. Photo by OFELIA GARCIA HUNTER

Two were processed just like anyone else, JWC jail officials say

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

The Alice Mayor and her sister turned themselves in at the Jim Wells County jail late Friday afternoon with their attorney leading the way.

Alice Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez and Gracy Garcia, a Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco school board member, followed attorney Homero Canales as they walked into the jail facilities at 4:20 p.m. with smiles on their faces as they turned themselves in to authorities Friday.

Saenz-Lopez and Garcia were indicted Friday morning by a Jim Wells County Grand Jury. The mayor was indicted on two felony charges of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and Garcia was indicted on one felony charge of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, officials said.

All three charges are third degree felonies, which carry a possible sentence of two to 10 years each, officials with the district attorney's office said.

The twin sisters were escorted into the jail and were fingerprinted and photographed by sheriff officials.

"They were processed and printed here at the jail just like everybody else," said Capt. Sandra Salas, a jail administrator.

After an hour of processing, the mayor was released on a $5,000 surety bond and Garcia on a $2,500 bond, both posted by Canales, officials said.

As the sisters walked into the jail, neither would comment on the situation, but instead just smiled.

Saenz-Lopez and Garcia are accused of hiding Puddles, a Shih Tzu dog that is the subject of litigation between the mayor and her neighbors, the Gutierrez family. Rudy Gutierrez says the mayor was asked to care for their dog, Puddles, last summer when the dog fell ill and he and his family went on vacation. The mayor told the family the dog died and was buried in her backyard.

Months later on Halloween day, the breeder from whom the Gutierrezes bought Puddles discovered the dog at a grooming shop. The battle for the ownership of Puddles, renamed Panchito has continued ever since.

On Tuesday, just two days after the mayor filed a lost pet report, a news crew from KZTV-10 discovered the dog at Garcia's home in Ben Bolt.

Sheriff's deputies attempted to make contact with Garcia at her home, but she was at Mayor Saenz-Lopez's home in Alice with the dog.

Alice police initially considered obtaining a search warrant to find Puddles, but decided not to pursue the warrant or present it to a judge.

Instead, police officials decided to present the case to the district attorney's office.

Saenz-Lopez said she committed no wrongdoing and contends a mystery woman reportedly found the dog and tried to return it to her, but she was not home. So the unknown woman driving a red car, then took the dog to Garcia in Ben Bolt.

The mayor is awaiting a hearing date on the civil case in the 79th District Court set for Feb. 4. A court date for the felony charges has not yet been determined.