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Robbery victim wants his dog returned

Springfield man says ‘Champion’ was a part of his family.

John Rommel had no problem giving a robber every dime to his name, especially when that robber was holding him at gunpoint. But he never imagined he’d also have to give him his dog.

“I told them just to take the money and said, ‘Can I keep my dog?’ and he said ‘No,’” Rommel recalled. “If I struggled, he probably would have shot me.”

There’s not much Rommel has to his name beyond the love of his friends and his faith in God. He heats his small studio apartment on West High Street with the burners on his gas stove. His possessions consist of two ragged dining chairs, a pile of blankets that serve as his bed, and— until two weeks ago— a two-month old chihuahua/Jack Russel mix named Champion.

Rommel said a robbery was the furthest thing from his mind the morning of Jan. 24 when a man and a woman walked through the unlocked door of his second floor apartment. He knew he had little to give the man, who raised a silver handgun with a wooden grip to Rommel’s chest and demanded all his money. While he looked for his wallet, Rommel said the woman kept exclaiming about the dog.

“She says she likes the dog,” he said. “So (the man) picked him up and put him in his jacket.”

Within minutes, the pair were out the door with Rommel’s cash, cell phone and Champion.

He was able to identify the couple from a photo lineup, and Springfield police arrested Marcus DeArmond, 21, and Kiersten Ramey, 22, Friday on aggravated robbery charges. But even with the two behind bars, officers haven’t found Rommel’s dog.

“There are people out there who won’t care about this dog as much as I care,” Rommel said. “It’s not about the money or anything. It’s about my little family. I want my dog back.”

Champion earned the name because he defied the odds and survived after being born a sickly runt. Rommel said he believes the dog may have been sold to someone else. He said he hopes that person will do the right thing and return the puppy to his rightful owner.

“He was a baby,” Rommel said of the two-month-old puppy. “I can never have another dog like him. He’s one of a kind. I love him.”

Anyone with information about the theft or Champion’s whereabouts can call Springfield police at (937) 324-7716.

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