Macon police: Woman tells tipster she let dogs loose

alopez@macon.comNovember 18, 2013 

Crystal Gale Fessler, the woman accused of breaking into a Macon animal rescue and freeing dozens of dogs resulting in a fight that left three dead and more than a dozen injured, acted alone, Macon police said Monday.

At a news conference, Lt. David Freeland said Fessler, 36, got into the All About Animals facility near Central City Park through a gap between the fence and the barbed wire. Freeland said investigators don’t think Fessler is part of an organized dogfighting operation.

Freeland said police were led to Fessler after receiving an Oct. 22 call from a tipster who told them a white woman showed up at a Marathon gas station on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard the morning of the incident. The woman complained of dog-bite injuries on her arm, and she told the tipster she had just let some dogs loose at a shelter, Freeland said.

The tip was a break in the case, but investigators were still far from making an arrest.

“At that point we did not know the suspect’s name,” Freeland said.

A few weeks later, the tipster called investigators to Gateway Park and directed them to the woman the tipster saw at the gas station. The investigators asked her questions, Freeland said, and passed that information to property crimes investigator Alex Grubbs.

Last Thursday, Grubbs arrived with Fessler at police offices where she provided a statement, Freeland said.

“She is very cooperative,” he said.

“We are not going to mention about her motives or actions at this time until the DA has had a chance to look at the case,” Freeland said. “Based on her statement that she provided us, we were able to make the charges against her.”

Freeland later said police were unable to match surveillance footage at the gas station to Fessler. Investigators believe the conversation with the tipster took place on the side of the building out of camera view, Freeland said.

Grubbs confirmed that Fessler was on probation at the time of the incident and said her probation officer is aware of what is happening. But he said he was “unprepared to comment” on her full criminal history.

Freeland said Fessler has no history of harming animals.

Macon Regional CrimeStoppers received a number of tips that investigators followed up on, but the Oct. 22 call was critical, Freeland said.

At the point where police got the tip, investigator Grubbs had interviewed All About Animals shelter volunteers and the director, “and we were still without a suspect of any sort,” Freeland said.

He said CrimeStoppers is working on how it will distribute reward money attached to the case.

CrimeStoppers had $8,000 in reward money and there was another $10,000 from other sources.

Fessler, of Brookhaven Road in Bibb County, was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged with criminal trespass and 13 counts of cruelty to animals.

Police allege that sometime between the night of Oct. 16 and the morning of Oct. 17, Fessler let several dogs, many of them pit bull and bulldog mixes, out of their pens. A fight ensued, and volunteers arriving at the shelter the morning of Oct. 17 found two dogs dead. Another died a short time later.

Several other dogs were severely injured, and even more were traumatized by the fatal fight, according to volunteers with the rescue group.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

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