More than a month after former New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo’s 5-year-old English bulldog, Knox, was reported missing by his dog trainer, the beloved pet was discovered dead in a closet in the trainer’s home, PEOPLE confirms.
The trainer, 41-year-old Amelia Ferreira, now faces a charge of obstruction in Knox’s death. In an interview with PEOPLE, she admitted to lying about what happened and did not excuse what she did.
The incident — which dragged on for weeks after Ferreira claimed Knox had run away while on a walk — was resolved on Sunday when his body was found in a plastic bag in a closet in Ferreira’s residence in Cranston, Rhode Island, according to local animal cruelty investigator Joe Warzycha, who assisted police.
Ferreira says she had previously kept Knox’s remains outside behind her carport after he died in June.
While Mayo, 32, tells PEOPLE that he and his family can now start to “get through” the loss, he still wants to answers about what actually happened to his dog.
The results of Knox’s necropsy, released on Wednesday evening, were “inconclusive” in providing more information.
“We were unable to determine the cause of death because the body of the animal was so decomposed that they couldn’t do the tests they normally do,” the Cranston police chief, Col. Michael Winquist, tells PEOPLE. However, he says, “The X-rays didn’t suggest any type of trauma.”
Cranston police said Wednesday that Ferreira would not be charged with anything other than obstruction. The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was a joint partner in the investigation, according to police.
Court records show Ferreira pleaded not guilty to obstruction and was released on her own recognizance, but she was tearfully apologetic when speaking with PEOPLE.
“I just want everyone to know that I’m so sorry I lied,” she says, “and I’m so sorry that he died and I wish I knew how he died and I wish that the Mayos didn’t have to go through this.”
Ferreira admits providing several different false stories about Knox’s death, including blaming her estranged husband.
But she is clear on one point, she says: She did not harm or abuse Knox in any way and still isn’t sure what killed him.
She says she found him lifeless in his crate on the afternoon of June 22, about seven weeks ago, several hours after leaving him in an air-conditioned room with water. One possibility, she thinks, is that he might have been allergic to something such as a protein in his food.
“Ultimately it’s my fault, but I didn’t hurt him in anyway, I would never do that — especially to him, he was such an awesome dog,” Ferreira says.
(She worked for Off Leash K9 Training while training Knox and had been employed there for about a year and a half but was fired in June, she says. Off Leash did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.)
After she found Knox dead, she “panicked,” in part due to her client’s fame but largely because she had never had a dog die in her care before, she tells PEOPLE.
She says that motivated everything she did next.
“If this had been any other dog, any other person, I can almost promise that I would have handled things the correct way,” Ferreira says. “But when you have a dog that belongs to somebody like this, it’s like I couldn’t do anything but panic and not — like what the frick do I do?”
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Ferreira also faces a possible charge for filing a false police report in Wrentham, Massachusetts, according to police there. She tells PEOPLE that has yet to happen, however.
Bill McGrath, the police chief in Wrentham, says Ferreira called local police on June 28 to report Knox missing because, she told them, he ran away while she was walking him and another dog in a local conservation area.
However, the officers who arrived at the scene found Ferreira’s behavior “deceptive” and the whole situation “highly unusual,” according to McGrath.
Ferreira says she reported Knox missing after telling her boss the same story, about six days after first finding Knox dead. She says she didn’t realize at the time that she was committing a crime in lying to police.
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Both Wrentham police and Mayo devoted resources to trying to track Knox on land and in water near the trail where Ferrerira claimed he had been. McGrath says he enlisted the help of a diver from the local fire department, and Mayo hired a scuba diver to search.
Throughout these searches and as she kept up her lie, Ferreira says she thought “101 times” about coming clean but she was scared and stayed silent.
“There’s no rational reason why I thought any of this,” she acknowledges, her voice choking up. “I’m the first person to say to my nieces or my family, ‘Just say the truth, the truth is always better than lying,’ and then I turned around and [did] exactly what I told them not to do just out of fear.”
Ferreira says she is going to write to Mayo’s family directly.
While she says that Knox died in late June, after he had been at her home for about a month for training, Mayo says his family’s issues with her predated that by several weeks.
He says he first contracted Ferreira in April. “I was looking for a dog trainer because we just had a baby and he was peeing on the floor, just like a jealous dog does,” he says.
Ferreira took Knox for two weeks in April, returning him to the family upon completion of the training, Mayo says. She says there were no issues during that first session with Knox and about a month later she took him back for a refresher course.
“That was the last time I saw Knox,” Mayo says.
After taking Knox, Ferreira didn’t contact Mayo for more than a week, he says.
The couple repeatedly called and texted Ferreira — “We were like, ‘Forget the training, we just want Knox back,’ ” Mayo says — but she allegedly kept giving them “the run around.” (Ferreira disputes this version of events, before Knox died, saying she was always communicative when reached by the family.)
“At one point, she said she couldn’t give him back because her mom was sick,” Mayo says.
Eventually, he says, he and his wife threatened to call the police, which prompted Ferreira to finally agree to meet them at their home. Yet Ferreira was allegedly a no-show.
“I remember hearing my wife on the phone with her, saying, ‘You better not have lost my dog.’ Then she told us she was walking Knox and she turned around to pick up another dog’s poop and he was gone. We knew that was B.S. because Knox is an English bulldog. He can’t even run.”
Just before his death, Ferreira says, she was planning on returning him because his training was complete.
Earlier this week Mayo said he, his wife, Chantel, and his four children — Chya, 7, Jerod, Jr., 6, Chyanne, 3, Chylo, 8 months — were waiting for the final results of Knox’s necropsy to hopefully learn the truth about what happened to him.
But regardless of the outcome, Mayo said he would go “the long haul” to find justice.
Knox is never far from Ferreira’s mind as well. “It’s all I think about, is him,” she says. “I don’t want anybody to have to suffer through this. I wish I had done things 100 percent differently.”
On that, she and authorities agree.
Says Chief McGrath: “There’s a saying that goes to the effect of ‘the cover up is worse than the crime’ … Had she been truthful, then probably none of us would be talking.”