Dog fighting kingpin, Shane L. Santiago, 34, who, along with his wife Laura Ann Acampora, 34, ran a brutal, sadistic dog fighting operation from their home in West Brandywine Township, PA, has been sentenced to 7-1/2 to 15 years in state prison.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan accused Santiago of operating “a house of pain and horror” for dozens of pit bulls used in a multi-state dog-fighting operation, reports the Chesco Times.
Earlier this month, Senior Judge Thomas G. Gavin sentenced his wife, Acampora, to 11 ½ to 23 months in prison followed by five years of probation, court records said.
Acampora had pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against her husband should he go to trial. She has been held in Chester County Prison since the couple’s arrest in December 2012. She entered pleas to three counts of animal cruelty, corruption of minors, and criminal conspiracy, the Daily Local News reports.
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When police executed a search warrant on Dec. 5, 2012, they found treadmills for endurance training, tools to incite biting, steroidal medicine and a noose used to hang a dog that bit one of the couple’s five children. In the basement was a blood-spattered arena for staging the fights.
Assistant District Attorney Pryza DeSouza told the court earlier this month that not only did the couple host dog fights in their home, but that they exposed their children — ages 3 to 15 at the time — to the training, and in the case of the eldest, to the fights themselves.
“Her children cared for the pit bulls that were being trained to attack other creatures,” DeSouza read in a statement to Gavin about the case.
During the year leading up to their arrests, Hogan said authorities had seen indications that dog fighting was occurring in Chester County because abandoned maimed pit bulls or bodies of dead dogs were being found.
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The multi-agency investigation ramped up in September 2012 when smoke along Rt. 82 led a local fire chief to a pit bull burning to death inside a locked cage, Hogan said.
The publicity from the dog-burning case caused participants in the dog-fighting world to lie low for a while, but investigators kept pursuing leads, he added.
They were lead to Santiago’s residence by complaints about possible dog-fighting in the 1300 block of North Manor Road, Hogan said. Investigators got their biggest break when they contacted Santiago’s landlord, learned he was about to be evicted, and got permission to search the home, the Chesco Times reports.
Chester County SPCA was contacted when investigators found injured animals, Hogan said. The agency rescued six dogs, ranging from a young puppy to a severely disfigured adult pit bull. Hogan notes investigators also found a dead pit bull puppy in a trashcan outside, double-wrapped in plastic bags.
In the gruesome world of dog-fighting, only winning dogs have value, Hogan explained. Losing dogs are generally killed by shooting, drowning, hanging, or electrocution with car-jumper cables – like the ones containing dog hair that were found at the defendants’ residence.
The criminal complaint states that Santiago, who referred to the animals as “livestock,” acknowledged killing at least 10 dogs by hanging or electrocution. He said he used a cable to fashion a noose for one dog that bit his daughter and wouldn’t let go, adding that it “took three minutes for the dog to die,” according to the complaint.
Santiago told investigators that he and Acampora “were planning on making the training and fighting of pit bull dogs a family business,” the complaint said.
Assistant District Attorney Pryza DeSouza told the court that not only did the couple host dog fights in their home, but that they exposed their children — ages 3 to 15 at the time — to the training, and in the case of the eldest, to the fights themselves.
Santiago said he had planned to host two upcoming dog-fighting matches in his home – one in December and one in January, the complaint said.
Asked about an injured dog that had been reported being carried out of his home in August, Santiago said some men brought the animal to spar with his fighting dog, and it got hurt, the complaint said.