Authorities say they are investigating the death of two dogs, including a K-9, who were in the care of the Gloucester County fire marshall.

Officials have provided few answers about the deaths, prompting growing public complaints with the process and outrage after a published report claimed that the fire marshall buried the dogs in his own backyard before investigators could examine their bodies.

Gloucester County Commissioner Chris Konawel told New Jersey 101.5 that fire marshal Shawn Layton, who also is a Democratic committeeman in Mantua, did not notify county officials immediately after the K-9 and his own pet dog died on Aug. 12.

Konawel said he heard from several residents about the deaths of the K-9 named Ember and Layton's pet and asked the fire marshal's liaison with the county about it in an email. Konawel said no one from the county responded to his emails.

According to a New Jersey Globe story, County Administrator Chad Bruner told County Commissioner Director Frank DiMarco about the deaths a day later on Aug. 13.

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Layton and County Administrator Chad Bruner share the same address, according to Konawel. Bruner, who is also the Gloucester County Democratic chairman, was responsible for both Layton's hiring and the initial investigation into the dogs.

Konawel, a Republican, said the county administrator would not respond to a New Jersey Globe report saying that the dogs were buried in Layton's backyard in a plot a ceremonial hydrant before the prosecutor's office took possession of the bodies.

"When he was asked 'were you there when the dog was buried were you there when the dog died' he refused to answer any questions," Konawel said. "Who was notified, when they were notified, nobody's answering anything."

Layton has not returned New Jersey 101.5's requests for comment.

Gloucester County K-9 Ember
Gloucester County K-9 Ember (Chris Konawel)
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Confirmation of two deaths

During Wednesday's meeting, Gloucester County Commissioner Director Frank DiMarco confirmed the deaths of the dogs who were inside his county-issued 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe. It was not made clear how officials knew that the dogs had died in the vehicle.

Konawel said that Layton is using sick days for medical leave and has not been suspended.

Konawel said he tried to place the death on the agenda for Wednesday's Gloucester County Board of Commissioners meeting but was turned down by the Democratic-controlled board. But that didn't stop the topic from being brought up by concerned residents during the public comment section of the meeting.  Many were wearing orange T-shirts that read #JusticeforK-9Ember.

"The public was there, they had questions and I think they left with more questions than they did answers. County counsel was standoffish and rude to the public. He tried to make it into a partisan issue," Konawel told New Jersey 101.5.

Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office Chief of Detectives Tom Gilbert spoke during the meeting and said that an investigation is underway but would not disclose any details. Details would not be released until the investigation is complete.

"It will be complete. It will be thorough. I can't put an end date to it. It's ongoing," Gilbert said.

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