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Puppies missing after fatal crash in Osceola County, troopers say

Woman pleads for dogs' safe return

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – A woman is pleading for her puppies to be returned after they were snatched from the scene of a crash that left her father dead on Sunday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Marrista Melendez, 55, came to Florida from Connecticut, along with her shih-poo puppies Mojo and Portia and her boyfriend Chris Walsh, to visit family for the holidays.

She was with relatives Sunday afternoon when the crash happened. Troopers said Melendez's aunt Iraida Santana was driving an SUV westbound on State Road 60 in Osceola County when she steered toward the right shoulder, then overcorrected, causing the front end of her vehicle to hit the front end of a Ford pickup truck.

Two other vehicles were also involved in the crash, according to the report.

Melendez's father, 69-year-old Manuel Santana Rodriguez, was in the passenger's seat. Troopers said he died in the crash.

Melendez was in the backseat with her puppies. She said the crash left her suffering from a concussion and she can't remember much of what happened.

“I remember just laying there, but not seeing the puppies with me,” Melendez said.

She said she was told that a woman approached her and told her that her puppies were safe and she would contact her after she was released from the hospital to return them.

Troopers at the scene said they were never approached about the pair of 16-week-old pups.

Aside from the concussion, Walsh said Melendez suffered an injury to her back and is now in a neck brace.

“She has bruises from head to toe,” Walsh said of Melendez's injuries.

Now, as Melendez recovers from the emotional pain of losing her father and the physical pain associated with her injuries, all she wants is to have her dogs returned safely.

She said Portia is white and brown and Mojo is chocolate brown. Both dogs, which weigh about 4 pounds each, were given to her as a retirement gift in November.

Melendez is asking that anyone who has any information about where he dogs might be to call her at 860-617-4417. 


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