Woman accused of demanding money for dog's return in Durham

DURHAM (WTVD) -- From the social media hashtag #BringBellaBack to criminal charges, the return of a missing Maltese-poodle ends with some courtroom drama.

"It was rainy and cold. She was terrified when we brought her home," explained Kerry Wilgen. "She just curled up on the couch and went to sleep."

An exhausted Bella was on the move for more than a week. She traveled as far away as Charlotte, according to data on her microchip.

Bella's owners say the person who took her personally returned the dog, but not without some encouragement.

Amanda Shamese Bynum, of Carrboro, is charged with extortion, felony conspiracy, and larceny of a dog. She allegedly contacted Bella's family and demanded hundreds of dollars for her return.

The dog had wandered away from its yard while its owner was unloading groceries.

Eyewitnesses say a driver stopped at a nearby intersection, picked up the dog, and then drove away.

Days later, a distressed Bella could be seen wearing a dog costume inside a pet store on Bynum's social media page, according to her owners.

It would take a Good Samaritan to ensure a happy reunion.

"She'd seen the dog twice, told the woman to bring the dog back and when she realized the dog hadn't been brought back, she dropped off the note," explained Wilgen.

The unidentified person left a note at a nearby church where they would eventually arrange Bella's safe return.

Thank you to that lady who dropped off the note and told us where to find our puppy dog," said Wilgen. "We're just happy."
Bynum posted a $25,000 bond and is awaiting her next court appearance.

ABC11 attempted to contact Bynum but our message was not returned.

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