Police: Man takes photos of dead woman in Gates motel, steals her dog

Heather Wait and her dog Shameus. Police say the dog was her constant companion. (Photo: Provided)

Gates, N.Y. (WHAM) - Police in Gates arrested a man Thursday after investigators said he broke into a dead woman's motel room, stole her dog and left without telling anyone she had died.

"This is clearly a new low in the opioid epidemic - a new low in humanity," said Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode.

The woman who died, Heather Wait, had a smile for everyone. Her bright light would be extinguished in October. On the 23rd, officers were called to the Motel 6 on Buell Road for a 30-year-old woman who had died of an apparent drug overdose. Chief VanBrederode said in their grief her parents had another grave concern: Where was Shameus?

Heather and her pit bull companion were inseparable.

"That was her most precious thing," VanBrederode said. "The dog was always with her and she would never leave the dog with anyone else."

Hotel surveillance cameras showed a man leaving with a dog three days earlier.

The police investigation determined 35-year-old Jose Pena went to her room in the motel. When he knocked on the door and no one answered, police said Pena broke into the room through a window and found her dead on the bed. He allegedly photographed her body, stole her dog, then left her there dead and alone.

"Just heartless to do something like that and not even make an anonymous call to the police or to notify somebody that her body was there," VanBrederode said.

Police say Pena also stole the victim's cell phone in order to prevent investigators from seeing text messages that might lead back to him. It did not work. Police were able to track him down and make the arrest. On December 6, he was charged with second-degree burglary, petit larceny and tampering with physical evidence. He was remanded to the Monroe County Jail on $3,000 cash or $6,000 bond.

The Good Samaritan law will protect anyone who calls 911 to report an overdose or someone who is in need of help.

Shameus has been returned to Heather's family. Heartbroken, they are now finding comfort in the dog who was always at her side - as she both lived life and left it.

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