33 crosses, sign mark anniversary of fatal kennel fire near Carol Stream
The anniversary of a fire at a kennel near Carol Stream and the lives of the dogs that died there was marked with 33 white crosses and a sign with a rainbow emerging from a cloud that read "You Are Loved."
The Jan. 14, 2019, fire exposed what DuPage County prosecutors called "cruel and inhumane conditions" inside the kennel that housed 58 dogs near North Avenue and County Farm Road. The fire killed 29 dogs and several others were unaccounted for.
A name was handwritten on each cross, including Koko, a dog found beneath a pile of debris, tethered to a bar in a second-floor bathtub after the fire.
Many of the charges against the operator, Garrett Mercado, are related to Koko. Mercado has pleaded not guilty to 28 misdemeanors -- 14 counts of animal cruelty and 14 counts of violation of owner's duties.
Mercado is set to appear in court for a status hearing Jan. 23, when his attorney, Harry Smith, is expected to give prosecutors a list of expert witnesses who could be called should the case go to trial.
Lori Shilling of Carol Stream stopped by the former kennel to place a flower at the site only to find the crosses there already.
"It's so nice that someone was able to do this," Shilling said. She said she used to board her dog there in the 1980s but had used other boarders in the years since. "I felt so badly when it happened, even just for living nearby," she said.