Veteran dies, never reunites with stolen service dog
BEVERLY HILLS, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Friends of a Central Florida veteran who suddenly died say it’s heartbreaking to know he was never reunited with his service dog, after she was stolen and then found.
Two service dogs, named Kira and Starr, settle into their new home, after their owner, veteran Joseph Hansen, died of heart failure.
Days before his death, Kira, 21, who’s going blind, was stolen.
Surveillance cameras show one woman distracting Hansen, while the other takes off with Kira.
"He just couldn’t understand it," said Julianne Jackson, of Greener Side Haven, who is taking care of both dogs. "[He] couldn’t understand what the thinking was... why someone would be so cruel and I’m sure that stressed him out. And I think he died of a broken heart."
The News Station talked to Hansen one week ago, as he pleaded to the public for help when Kira went missing.
"I use her for PTSD," he said. "I’m a combat veteran and served in Vietnam. That’s why I have her, so I can stay in control in bad situations."
Hansen's friends, Hallie and Kendra, were concerned as days went by without Kira.
Kendra Palladino said, "He was talking about God a lot. He was lost without that dog. I’m telling you he was lost."
A tip led deputies to Hansen's service dog.
Officials charged Jennifer Gotschall and Monique Cosser with grand theft.
They say there won’t be additional charges because there’s nothing that can prove Hansen's death is linked to the theft.
"I don’t think our justice system does justice many times," Jackson said. "Unfortunately, in this case, Joe can’t even stand up for himself."
But on this Veteran's Day weekend, Friends of Hansen are standing up for him.
Palladino said, "I honestly believe this is why he’s not with us now, so if we could honor him and all veterans there that would be very special."
Jackson agrees, saying, "He loved to tell stories about everything and anything... about his Vietnam days, about his health, about friends, about these girls... He was always talking about these girls."
Hansen's family is still in the process of making funeral arrangements.