MORIARTY, N.M. (KRQE) - Investigators say a serial dognapper could be linked to even more cases than they originally thought.
Torrance County Sheriff Heath White calls his most recent case devastating.
White said an elderly woman who just lost her husband is now missing her two dogs.
The sheriff believes she is yet another victim of the thief claiming to be an animal advocate.
On Friday KRQE News 13 reported on Debra Swenerton, 59. She's charged with burglary and animal cruelty after a victim says she watched Swenerton walk into her house and swipe her dogs.
Now another family says Swenerton did the same thing to them, and they're not the only ones.
Tracy Grycel of Moriarty is keeping her dogs inside after word spread last week of a serial dognapper in the county.
Grycel's elderly mother's dogs went missing in the middle of October. The dogs, Ricki, a boxer, and Britt, a toy fox terrier, disappeared from their yard.
Both believe Swenerton is involved.
It's a story that's all too familiar for the sheriff.
"We've probably got a good 40 cases on my desk right now of an animal removed from property or chains or inside their kennels," he said. "There's always one common denominator."
White explained that common denominator is Debra Swenerton.
Tracy, like many of the victims, claims Swenerton's car was seen around her mom's house and in her driveway the day the dogs disappeared.
"These dogs were in our yard, and this woman is brave enough to come into someone's yard and take these animals," she said. "I just can't believe that she has a conscience saying she's an animal advocate."
Swenerton claims online to run a nonprofit dog rescue.
Her lawyers sent News 13 the following statement:
"Debbie cares deeply about animals and dedicates a great deal of her time and resources to animal welfare. It's outrageous to suggest that someone like her would do something so heinous. Debbie has not committed any crimes and we are confident that she will be exonerated."
Tracy's mom, who just lost her husband and said the dogs are all she has left, and hopes someone will recognize them and help her get them back.
"She's alone right now," Grycel said. "She's stressed out. She's worried about where the dogs are because they're out there by themselves.
"We don't know where they are, and that's the thing that's hurting us the most."
White said he believes Swenerton is connected to at least 60 dognappings. Some of the dogs were recovered from local shelters, which did not know they were stolen, he added.
Championship Edition Part 4: Class 2A Title Preview: Hatch Valley Bears vs. Clayton Yellowjackets; Last Week's 2A Semi: Clayton stings Santa Rosa.
New Mexico is at the beginning of a deep freeze, and state officials are paying close attention.
Some of the cast of Sesame Street Live's "Can't Stop Singing" join us this morning! Here to talk to us about the tour is Joey Baez, spokesperson for Sesame Street Live.