15 dogs seized; possible connection to death investigation in Rockingham County

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MADISON, N.C. -- The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office seized 15 dogs to investigate whether they are connected to a 62-year-old man's death.

Jose Cruz-Cazares Robles was first reported missing by his family on Nov. 23, the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

He and his wife were in town from Mexico visiting family in Madison the weekend before the holiday. According to court documents, Cazares Robles went for a walk around 1 p.m. Sunday, like he'd done on other days during his visit here.

His family lives off Bethany Road. When Cazares Robles did not return home before dark, his family called the Sheriff's Office. He was reported as a missing person.

According to a search warrant issued Nov. 24, detectives were searching the area the next morning when one officer observed "a pack of various dogs which aggressively confronted his vehicle in the roadway." Another detective arrived and reported she was "also confronted aggressively by these dogs."

The owners of the dogs live on the 1100 block of McCollum Road, and officers reported the owner said "they would bite the ankles of strangers who were near the property." They asked the owner to secure the dogs and say she complied.

Officers then found Cazares Robles dead across the street from the dog owners' home. He was at the bottom of a steep embankment and the warrant described his body having "numerous animal bite marks in various areas of his body." His clothes and shoes were found several yards away.

Officers got a warrant and seized the 15 dogs, which were taken to the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office.

The dogs' exact involvement is still unclear. The warrants do not say whether officers believe the dogs attacked the victim and possibly caused his death, or whether they are suspected of biting Robles after he died.

Kevin Suthard, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, said they are waiting on autopsy results to know the cause of death in this case.

There are no charges at this point.

A second search warrant allowed investigators to get blood samples, oral swabs, nose swabs, toe swabs and bite impressions from each of the fifteen dogs. Animal Shelter Director Kevin Baughn said they made room for the dogs and will care for them pending the investigation.

The dogs' owner told FOX8 they were waiting for more information in the case from the sheriff's office before commenting.

We were unable to contact the victim's family by phone or at their home Thursday.

Suthard was unsure how long it would take to get back the autopsy results.