This image provided by the Clark County Detention Center shows Kirk Bills, who has been accused of trying to burn a pet shop where 27 puppies were rescued last month. Bills has been returned in custody to Las Vegas to face arson and other charges, authorities said Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Clark County Detention Center)
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A judge said Friday [auth] she was troubled by a jailhouse recording of a phone call between a fledgling professional boxer arrested in Indiana and a Las Vegas pet shop owner who are together accused of torching a store where firefighters rescued 27 puppies.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Janiece Marshall set bail at $310,000 for Kirk Bills, after a prosecutor identified Bills as the man seen on security video setting the Jan. 27 fire, and said the phone call sounded like Bills asking co-defendant Gloria Eun Hye Lee if she implicated him.
“Why are they looking for me, girl?” Bills asked Lee, according to a transcript the judge read aloud in court. “They chased me.”
In court, Bills stood silently in shackles while prosecutor Shanon Clowers said she believed Bills was asking Lee in the phone call whether she “snitched” on him.
Clowers added that Bills crashed Lee’s vehicle on the way to Crown Point, Ind., where he was arrested on Feb. 7 by a fugitive task force including FBI agents from Chicago.
Defense attorney Roger Bailey said he thought the call reflected Bills’ bewilderment at being sought by authorities and said Bills had planned his trip to the Chicago area before losing his professional boxing debut Jan. 24 in Indio, Calif.
Bailey also disputed Clowers’ claim that Bills was clearly identified on store security video as the man pouring liquid from gasoline cans around puppy cages and then setting the liquid aflame while Lee collects files inside her Prince and Princes pet store.
“All you can see is a sweatshirt and a hoodie,” Bailey said.
The video hasn’t been made public, but may be shown during Bills’ preliminary hearing March 10 on 31 felony and misdemeanor charges including arson, conspiracy, burglary and attempted animal cruelty.
Bailey spoke outside court with Bills’ wife, whom he said gave birth to a baby daughter on Tuesday, and said it wasn’t clear if Bills could post bail.
Lee also is being held on $310,000 bail. She pleaded not guilty in state court on Monday to the same 31 charges, and a judge scheduled her trial for July 7.
Prosecutors have said that if Bills is ordered to stand trial in state court, the two cases could be merged.
Separately, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson took steps Friday to free up the puppies for adoption.
He made public a letter sent Thursday, giving the Prince and Princess pet store owners until Sunday to invoke an ownership claim over the dogs.
The letter also says that if they want the puppies, store owners Lee and Donald Thompson are on the hook for boarding fees and medical costs that could total more than $10,000.
Lawyers for Lee and the store didn’t immediately respond to messages about the letter.
Wolfson credited the Lied Animal Shelter and non-profit Animal Foundation in Las Vegas with taking care of the puppies since the fire.
“While I know the puppies are safe and well cared for at the shelter,” the district attorney said, “I think we can all agree that the shelter is not an ideal long-term home for them.”
Animal rights advocate Gina Griesen said she knew several people willing to adopt the animals.