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Slain Man's Love Of Dogs Honored At Local Animal Shelter

“Throughout his life he rescued dogs from shelters. He just loved them."

Winchester resident Sam Vanettes loved dogs, so in his memory his family is asking that donations be made to

“Sam would have wanted it,” said Dennis Tolton, Sam’s stepfather of 30 years.

The alleged shooter was an off-duty Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy who has since been charged with murder.

While details of what occurred that evening are likely to come out in court, according to witnesses who were inside Spelly’s the night of the fatal shooting, Vanettes was an innocent bystander who tried to quell an altercation between a patron and the deputy.

Tolton said his family is and they are concentrating on ensuring justice is served, but he explained that decisions such as the one involving Animal Friends of the Valleys are all part of the healing process.

“When Sam was young we had property in Corona. We had two or three dogs,” Tolton recounted. “They were Sam’s little kids.

“Throughout his life he rescued dogs from shelters. He just loved them,” Tolton continued.

Speaking by phone from his Wildomar-based business Golden Office Trailers, Tolton said Sam’s passion for canines continued even after his tragic death.

“He bought his sister April the book, The Dog Whisperer. She opened it for Christmas," Tolton said. "He’s still surprising us."

In addition to gifting funds to the shelter in memory of Sam Vanettes, Tolton said the community is invited to attend the The event is being sponsored by the city of Murrieta, the Murrieta Chamber of Commerce and several area businesses. Proceeds from the event benefit the Vanettes family as well as the family of 18-year-old Saskia Burke, who will stabbed to death in her family’s Murrieta home Dec. 20.

Tolton said the portion of proceeds for the Vanettes family will benefit Sam’s sister April, who is struggling with the loss of her brother.

For those wishing to donate to the Animal Friends of the Valleys Sam Vanettes fund, the shelter asks that checks be made out to “Animal Friends of the Valleys.” In the memo section of the check, include the words, “In memory of Sam Vanettes.” Send checks to Animal Friends of the Valleys, 33751 Mission Trail, Wildomar, CA, 92595.

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