More than a year has passed since Bonnie Poe has seen her pet Capuchin monkey Latoya.
Last October, Poe was desperate for help when Latoya came down with valley fever, so she allowed a Florence woman, named Gail Mehrhoff, to take over care of her beloved monkey.
“Two weeks after she took her, I was saying she needs to come and she just did not want to give her back to me,” Poe said.
The two sides have gone before several judges in both Pima and Pinal counties, throughout the proceedings there has still been no sign of Latoya. In recent weeks, the Pinal County Sheriff's Department stepped in executing a writ to search Mehrhoff's property.
“They scanned all the animals and monkeys and brought monkeys out one by one so I could look at them and see if Latoya was in there,” Poe said.
The News 4 Tucson investigators were on scene as members of the sheriff's department searched the property. As the search went on a sergeant asked us to move down the street, despite the fact we were on a public road and not interfering.
The search and seizure were both unsuccessful.
“They were supposed to do an asset seizure and she has absolutely nothing in her name, nothing, she owns nothing,” Poe said.
Once the sheriff's department and animal control left, we returned to the property in attempt to hear Mehrhoff's side of the story. Her husband told us she did not want to speak with us, but gave us a number to contact her. Our attempts to reach her have been unsuccessful.
Animal control officer Chris Hany, a friend of Poe's, flew in from Illinois for the search. She said the living conditions at Mehrhoff's supposed animal sanctuary are deplorable.
“It's disgusting, if she were in my county, I'd write her so many violations she wouldn't know what hit her,” Hany said. “There are chickens there that have open sores, plucked feathers everywhere, there was no food source. She has a potbelly pig out there that was skin and bones. I've never seen a skinny pig."
Hany said those weren’t the only problems.
“I talked with the animal control officer, she has a ton of dogs there, not one registered, and this is a sanctuary.”
Poe continues to say that Mehrhoff sold Latoya to a woman in San Antonio. As for what's next, the two sides will be heading back to court at the beginning of November. Meantime the search for Latoya continues.
"We're never giving up, it will never happen," Hany, "This team will never stop looking for that monkey."
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