NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Volunteers who searched for a yellow Lab mix missing for two weeks from a truck stolen in North Charleston shared hugs with her owner near the area where she was found dead early Sunday morning.
The dog, Bella, had been the subject of a search since her owner’s truck was stolen in the parking lot of the Northwoods Boulevard Lowe’s on Dec. 22.
Ben Brengle found his dog in an embankment off the 52 Connector at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday, North Charleston Police spokesperson Karley Ash said.
Brengle, who had offered a $10,000 reward for Bella’s return, made the discovery just blocks away from the Lowe’s parking lot where his truck was stolen.
A dozen volunteers who had been helping search for her joined Brengle in the parking lot Sunday afternoon for a small but meaningful memorial. Although the search came to a tragic end, Brengle said he wants to thank all the people who reached out and said he hopes her death can be a lesson learned.
“It was about finding Bella," he said. "Now that I found her, it’s about paying it forward. It’s about trying to use this as a movement.”
The Facebook page “Find Bella of Charleston, SC,” was started to help track sightings and even call for help from volunteers. The page quickly amassed nearly 4,000 followers. Positive thoughts, prayers, and even suggestions to help locate Bella came in from across the Lowcountry and from neighboring states, as far away as Rhode Island.
On Sunday morning, after news broke of Bella’s death, the page shared more than 30 photos submitted as possible sightings of the missing dog with this message: “In honor of all The Lost Dogs sent to us during Bella’s search. We pray they all find their way home.”
A post earlier this week stated surveillance footage from Northwoods Mall showed the dog leaping from the back window of the vehicle as it was being stolen, prompting volunteers to gather at the mall’s food court entrance Friday and Saturday night to search in the area.
North Charleston Police spotted the truck on Thursday and attempted to pull it over. Berkeley County deputies eventually arrested the driver in Cross. Richard Rawlings, Jr., was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle. A judge set a $50,000 surety bond for Rawlings Friday night and ordered him to have no contact with the owner of the vehicle.
No additional charges are being made in this incident, Ash said.