She posted fliers about her missing dog. Then her nightmare began

Jackie Luca received a text message about her missing dog.

She was hopeful at the time, but the message was the beginning of a nightmare that has stretched out for several weeks, involves a stranger standing outside her home late at night and a phone number connected to a murder suspect.

"It's kind of like I'm in the middle of it," Luca said. "But, you know, where's my dog?"

Rocco, Luca's 2-year-old Rottweiler, disappeared from outside her Pasadena home on Feb. 1 when she let him out for his morning walk.

"I walked down to the driveway and he was gone," Luca said.

So she did what many pet owners do. She plastered her neighborhood with fliers of Rocco and her phone number.

That's when the texts began.

Someone messaged her and said they had found her dog. They sent her pictures of Rocco and said he was now in Palm Desert, about 120 miles east of Pasadena. When they called her, Luca said she could hear a dog crying out in pain.

"It has kind of broke our family," Luca said. "People may think they're just dogs, but they're a part of our family."

She said she called police in Palm Desert to escort her to the address, but Rocco wasn't there, and the person at the home did not know what she was talking about.

Then she got another message from the person who claimed to have her dog. They wanted $500 and said Rocco was going to a farm. They gave her more addresses, but nothing panned out.

And things only got more confusing from there.

Luca received a message from a second phone number about the dog. It also included an address. She shared the phone number with police, who said they traced it back to a man wanted for murder.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has now taken an interest in the case.

"They got back to me so quickly, wanting me to meet up with this guy," Luca said. "In the back of my head, I thought, 'Oh, they're doing this for my dog.'"

The number was tied to Eduardo Sanchez, a man wanted for allegedly killing 14-year-old Ivan Villareal on Aug. 10, 2021, Luca said.

Homicide investigators with the Sheriff's Department said there was no additional information to report regarding the investigation of Sanchez.

Meanwhile, Luca continued to receive texts and photos of Rocco, and sheriff's investigators have encouraged her to write back.

"The detective said, 'Maybe he likes you. Maybe we can use that to lure him in,'" Luca said.

Los Angeles magazine first reported about Luca's ordeal. Since then, the Dodgers fan and Pasadena resident's 14-year-old Chihuahua Buddy has passed away. She thinks he died from a broken heart after Rocco was stolen.

And the pain hasn't stopped. Luca continues to receive messages. A recent one stated that Rocco was dead and asked if she wanted his fur.

At one point, Luca's teenage daughter messaged one of the people who claimed to have Rocco and tried to appeal to their humanity. That person sent pictures of a nude man in response.

Adding to the mystery, Luca says a man has appeared outside her home late at night multiple times. He tried to open her front door and even taunted Luca's security cameras. She called police during one of the incidents, but he was gone by the time officers arrived hours later, she said.

One of her neighbors is convinced they've seen the man before and he's the one who stole her dog, Luca said.

Pasadena police are trying to verify if there's any connection between the man and the people who claim to have taken Luca's dog.

Late one night, the man returned outside her home, Luca said. Worried for her daughters' and her own safety, she called police and messaged the detective working the case. But again the man was gone by the time police arrived roughly three hours later, according to Luca.

Pasadena Police Lt. Tim Bundy said there were multiple angles investigators could pursue in the investigation, adding that it's unclear if the person who has appeared outside her home has anything to do with the missing dog.

"Right now, there's no correlation between the disappearance of the dog and the people who have contacted her," said Bundy. "It's hard to determine if the people who are text messaging her are trying to scam her for a reward or if they even have her dog."

Now Luca says someone is stalking her on Facebook and she doesn't know what to do next, other than keep trying to get Rocco back.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.