DogsBite Blog ::
Friday, April 29, 2016
The rehomed male, neutered pit bull-mix in quarantine after killing a 3-day old baby.
Passed Assessment Test
UPDATE 04/29/16: On July 7, 2015, a 6-year old boy in North Carolina was killed by a male, neutered pit bull that was rehomed by the Asheville Humane Society 3-weeks earlier. The pit bull had passed the SAFER temperament test before being adopted. Now, just 8-months later in San Diego, a male pit bull-mix rehomed by the San Diego Humane Society has fatally attacked. That dog also passed an assessment test prior to being adopted then killed a baby 5-months later.1
Currently, there is no way to reliably test for unpredictable pit bull aggression. State-of-the-art temperament tests like SAFER only provide a benchmark by detecting "obvious" behavioral issues. These tests greatly rely upon who is conducting them as well -- a person with 2-years of behavioral experience or 25? This 2.5-year old pit bull-mix came into the shelter on November 10 and was adopted out just 8-days later. We repeat again what we stated after Joshua's death:
The "state-of-the-art" temperament assessment test, SAFER, cannot measure unpredictable aggression nor can any current test. This is the risk every person accepts, knowingly or not, when adopting a pit bull.After the death of 3-day old Sebastian Caban, the president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society, Gary Weitzman, issued a letter to staff members and volunteers. It states, in part, the attack was unforeseeable and "there was not a fragment of aggression seen in this dog before tragedy struck." This statement emphasizes just how unreliable these tests are in assessing unpredictable aggression. "Seen in this dog," is only in the context of seeing the dog for 8-days.
Animal Expert Provides InsightsUPDATE 04/27/16: Sebastian Caban, 3-days old, was fatally bitten on the head by a family pit bull-mix while he laid in bed with his parents and the dog. What followed was a carefully executed breed manipulation plan by Deputy Director Dan DeSousa to confuse the media and public, along with an outpouring of media claiming the deadly attack came in response to the mother coughing. We reached out to Alexandra Semyonova, an animal behaviorist and author, for her observations.
Additionally, as we prepared this update, it was announced what we had suspected all along. The family pit bull-mix is a rescue. The San Diego Humane Society -- a private organization that has a partnership with county animal services -- adopted the dog to the baby's parents 5-months ago. The reason why we suspected this pit bull-mix had been rehomed is because it was neutered. This is a rarity amongst pit bull owners unless the animal was rehomed by a reputable shelter.
Alexandra SemyonovaSemyonova has graciously allowed us to post an excerpt from her book, The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs, pertaining to the myth of whether a dog can or can't be jealous -- Myth 44. Purchase your copy of the book today. Also visit Semyonova's website: Nonlinear Dogs.
It’s quite sad that yet another killing of yet another child by a pit bull type is being diverted to a discussion of exactly which category of pit bull type dog is involved, and to a discussion of 911 dispatch response time.
The real problem here is not the 911 dispatch response time. It is not exactly which of the various pit bull type dogs killed this infant. It is not about figuring exactly what triggered the pit bull mix to execute its inherent motor pattern. Neither is this latest infant death about children and ‘any dog’, which will be the next damage control response pit bull advocacy predictably comes up with. The tragedy of this child’s death is about exposing a newborn baby to the type of dog that has been responsible for more child killings than all other breeds and types of dogs combined since the 1980s. A type of dog whose genetically determined, inherent response to startle (no matter what kind), in fact to any strong stimulus, is to attack the head and neck, grip, hold, shake, and not let go.
Yes, many types of dogs have bitten children, but we are not talking about a bite here. We’re talking about an instant killing, not preceded by any warning signals, not triggered by anything that would offend any normal dog, and so vicious that the parents of the child had trouble getting the pit bull mix off their baby.
As an expert on the domestic dog, I’m appalled at Deputy Director Dan DeSousa’s immediate response. He is apparently as aware of the statistics as I am, and is above all concerned about keeping yet another pit bull type out of those statistics.1 He is willing to slander any and all other types of dogs in order to do this. If he really cared about dogs -- or even about pit bulls -- he would react differently. We don’t help dogs by playing name-games that will lead to ever more children being killed by a particular type, then saying any dog would to it. We don’t help pit bull types by denying the danger they present, thus cooperating in setting them up again and again to fail in family homes. This aside from the loss of human life that results from this game, since DeSousa apparently doesn’t care much about that either.
I am also appalled at the focus on the 911 dispatch response time. These parents took a loaded Kalashnikov to bed with them because it’s the Internet fashion of the moment. The Kalashnikov shot their baby in the head when the mother coughed with her finger on the trigger. Just as with a machine gun shot to the head, a neonate is lost the instant any pit bull type dog has gripped its head, even if police were in the room at the moment the trigger went off. It’s misplaced -- and an attempt to avoid responsibility for their own terrible choice -- for these parents (and everyone else) to be trying to blame the overworked and understaffed 911 dispatch response center.
The normal domestic dog is a conflict avoider. At startle or threat, it will try first of all to increase distance and assess the situation. It will seek to compose an appropriate response, preferring a response that does not involve violence. If startled by a child (or anything else) in a position where it can’t instantly increase distance, a normal dog might lash out with an open-jawed bat to an approaching body part. A normal dog might do a pressureless grab at that body part. A puncture wound, some torn skin, a bruising could result -- but not a death. The normal dog will flee the situation as soon as a flight route opens up. It will not respond to startle by jumping up and gripping the head of anything that happens to be close by, applying full jaw pressure, and refusing to let go.
This response is unique to the pit bull types, including the various pit bull mixes. A normal dog would have jumped off the bed and, if jealous, slunk off to pout. Jealous normal dogs don’t go into a sudden, gripping death-hold attack. Yet again we see that the pit bull types are not like other dogs. ‘Any dog’ education will not help these pit bull killings of children to stop, and we need to quit pretending it will. People like DeSousa, who are charged not only with animal welfare but also with public safety, need to stop the games they’re playing.
As for the ‘any dog’ thing, it’s true that any dog that inflicts serious wounds in a startle situation shows it isn’t safe to keep among us. Where a dog -- any dog -- shows lack of preference for conflict avoidance, lack of acquired bite inhibition or willingness to abandon bite inhibition in ANY conflict, and lack of willingness to quit until the other is dead, it is my opinion that it is neither safe for us nor good for dogs in general to keep that dog alive. And so here is the final appalling part of this story: the law should not be such that a man like DeSousa has any choice but to humanely euthanize any dog that has killed, even if that dog was one of the pit bull types he seems above all enamored with. - Alexandra Semyonova, animal behaviorist and author
UPDATE 04/25/16: Death Due to Bite Injuries
The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office has identified the 3-day old baby boy that was attacked and killed by the family pit bull-mix last Thursday. Sebastian Caban of San Diego died due to dog bite injuries to his head, states the medical examiner's news release. The manner of death was ruled an accident. The "decedent was mauled by the family dog after the dog was startled awake when sleeping on the bed with the mother and decedent," states the news release.
Other developments include the baby's parents calling 911 twice before giving up and taking the injured baby to the hospital themselves. Over the weekend, NBC 7 reported that between 7:15 pm and 7:45 pm on Thursday, April 21, Sebastian's parents made two unsuccessful 911 calls, one 28 seconds long, the other 34 seconds long. Neither call was answered by dispatch. During this same period, a total of 73 calls came into dispatch seeking assistance, San Diego police confirmed.
Special Update: Fire Dan DeSousaUPDATE 04/22/16: We would like to point out to readers that what this post should be primarily about is a 3-day old baby lying in bed with the family pit bull and his parents. This is inexcusably unsafe with most dogs, but especially with pit bulls and other powerful breeds. That is a kind way of stating it. The criminal way of stating it is endangerment, which is likely why the Child Abuse Unit was called out. This aspect had to be investigated for a child this young -- just 3-days old.
San Diego County Animal Services
Instead of focusing on this important safety aspect, we must discuss the deliberate manipulation by Dan DeSousa, Deputy Director of Animal Services, to protect the pit bull breed by mislabeling this dog. There are only a few AC departments in the U.S. that consistently demand to be called out like this, DeSousa of San Diego County Animal Services is one of them. By deliberately manipulating this dog's breed, reports began stating that this dog is a "great dane-terrier mix."
Deputy Director Dan DeSousa should be fired for deliberately manipulating this dog's breed to confuse the media and public after a 3-day old baby was killed by a family pit bull. -DogsBite.orgLet's start from the earliest report at 11:30 am (PST), where the dog is a "2-year-old American Staffordshire terrier," according to DeSousa." In the next report, at 1:56 pm, the dog is a mix. The dog is a "2-year-old, neutered male American Staffordshire terrier-mix, DeSousa said." By 2:31 pm, the dog became a "great dane-American Staffordshire terrier mix," according to DeSousa. Then near that time, "a two-year-old mixed breed American Staffordshire terrier named Polo."2
There are two parts to DeSousa's manipulation. Part one is calling the dog an American Staffordshire terrier, which is exactly the same breed as the American pit bull terrier -- many people in the public do not know this. DeSousa, from the get-go, purposefully tried to confuse the media and public. Part two of the manipulation is more sinister. The first part of a "mixed breed" label indicates the predominant breed, for instance a pit bull-boxer is predominantly a pit bull.
Within three hours of media reports, DeSousa tried to make the confusing Staffordshire label the least predominant breed by placing it second. (This is after the media released photographs of the dog.) By 2:39 pm, the breed label became the ultimate goal of DeSousa, 100% denial of any pit bull heritage. The dog became a "great dane-terrier mix," according to DeSousa. This was all deliberately orchestrated to hide the truth after a neutered family pit bull killed a newborn baby.
DeSousa's Plan Did Not Prevail
The upshot is that you cannot fool all the people all the time. By 5:30 pm (all California times listed), the Associated Press, which is syndicated nationally, picked up the story along with the photograph of the dog and correctly labeled it an American Staffordshire terrier-mix. This label is 100% interchangeable with a pit bull terrier-mix. After looking at the dog's photo, the Associated Press -- at least this particular writer -- could not call this animal a "great dane-terrier mix."
04/22/16: Family Pit Bull Kills Newborn
San Diego, CA - A 3-day old baby was fatally attacked by a family pit bull, San Diego Police said Friday. The deadly attack occurred Thursday night on Flanders Drive in the Mira Mesa area. The dog is now in the custody of San Diego County Animal Services, police said. Dan DeSousa, Deputy Director of Animal Services and longtime pit bull sympathizer, said the dog is a 2-year old male, neutered pit bull, but insisted on calling the animal an "American Staffordshire Terrier."3
The baby's mother and father were watching television in bed with their newborn and the dog, reports Sgt. Tuu Nguyen with the Child Abuse Unit of the San Diego Police Department. You read that statement correctly -- the 3-day old baby was in bed with the pit bull and the baby's parents. When the mother suddenly coughed, Nguyen said, "the dog made contact with the baby leading to traumatic injuries." The parents rushed the baby to the hospital, where it was declared dead.
“At this time it appears to be a tragic accident. It’s such a horrific, tragic case.” - Sgt. Tuu Nguyen, San Diego Police DepartmentThe San Diego Union-Tribune reports that child abuse detectives were called to the couple's home on Flanders Drive off Camino Ruiz about 8 pm Thursday to investigate. Nguyen said no other children were taken from the home or placed under other care. The investigation will be completed after an autopsy confirms the cause of death, Nguyen said. Police called county animal control officers half-past midnight to impound the pit bull. The dog will be held in quarantine for 10-days.
San Diego County Fatal Pit Bull Attacks
During the 11-month period from December 24, 2011 to November 11, 2012, pit bulls from San Diego County killed four people. In one of these cases, the dog was found in Balboa Park in San Diego then taken across the border to Tijuana. Within a week the dog killed its owner's 4-year old granddaughter, América Viridiana. This same period also includes a fifth death, the fatal mauling of Remedios Romero-Solares and was attributed to "American bulldog-mixes" by DeSousa.
How did DeSousa and San Diego County Animal Services respond to this disaster? By giving away pit bulls for free in a special promotion titled, "Dare to BULL-ieve." The taxpayer-funded promotion began in mid October of 2012, after three fatal pit bull attacks in the previous 10-months and just days after the serious mauling of a little girl in the county. Polltakers by a wide margin, 69% to 31%, voted that the county government should not promote "free pit bull" adoptions.4
2In an ABC 10 News interview, DeSousa makes his bias clear: "It's a tragic incident for everybody involved. What I don't want is for people to stereotype a dog and say, 'This dog did this because it looks like a pit bull." DeSousa also stated, "It is up to the family to decide if they want this animal back." As of April 27, the baby's parents have not yet decided this. The decision to euthanize "should" have been immediate, but it rarely is with pit bull owners.
3DeSousa also quickly "humanized" the pit bull by ensuring that its name was included in media reports. In this case, the media and public knew the pit bull's name before the baby's name. It seems that after the "Year of Hell" in San Diego County, 2011-2012, when pit bull-type dogs took the lives of four people, DeSousa developed a new "disaster response" PR plan. 1.) Deliberately mislabel the breed to confuse the media and public, 2.) Invent a "mix" and place it first as the predominant breed, and 3.) Humanize the attacker by releasing the dog's name. But DeSousa did make an error by releasing the dog was neutered. It stands in direct contrast to the false claim often trumpeted by pit bull owners that "only male unaltered pit bulls kill." Learn more about owning a dangerous breed.
4DeSousa is now calling the dog an "American Staffordshire terrier-mix." As readers of this website know, pit bulls and American Staffordshire terriers are the exact same breed. DeSousa is just trying to "protect the breed" by deliberately confusing the media and the public after a neutered pet pit bull fatally attacked a newborn baby. To further our point, in yet another article, DeSousa calls the dog, a "Great Dane-American Staffordshire Terrier mix," again to diminish the pit bull's role in this fatal attack, to confuse the media and the public AND this is all while we are looking at two extremely clear photographs of the dog. DeSousa deliberately used "Great Dane" as the first mix too, which indicates that is the "primary" breed. Pit bull is without a doubt the primary breed in this instance.
5Yes, San Diego County taxpayers. You helped pay for that 10-minute "Remark-a-BULL" and "Adorable-a-BULL" promotional video and all other "Dare to BULL-ieve" program costs, along with giving away pit bulls for free.
The Reliability of Temperament Tests
- Aggressive Behavior in Adopted Dogs that Passed a Temperament Test by E'Lise Christensen, Janet Scarletta, Michael Campagnaa and Katherine Albro Houpt, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 106, Issues 1-3, August 2007.
- Reliability, validity and feasibility of existing tests of canine behaviour, by Mornement et al., Anthrozoology Research Group, Animal Welfare Science Centre and Monash University, AIAM Annual Conference on urban animal management, 2009.
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01/08/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Maryland Man Mauled to Death by Adopted Rescue Pit Bull
12/07/12: 2012 Dog Bite Fatality: San Diego County Woman Killed by Pack of American...
08/28/12: San Diego County Pit Bull Responsible for Death of 4-Year Old Tijuana Girl
06/19/12: 2012 Dog Bite Fatality: Pet Pit Bull Kills Infant in San Diego County
03/09/12: 2012 Dog Bite Fatality: Letter Carrier Dies After Pit Bull Attack in Escondido
01/18/12: 2011 Dog Bite Fatality: Victim of Catastrophic Pit Bull Injury Dies on Christmas Eve
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Annie Williams, 71, was mauled to death by a pit bull in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Owner Gets Prison
UPDATE 04/20/16: In February, felony manslaughter charges were brought against two dog owners in Cuyahoga County. Earlier this month, Leon Morton, 49, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after a pit bull under his care brutally attacked and killed 71-year old Annie Williams in front of her great grandchildren in Shaker Heights last July. Today, Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman sentenced Morton to 30-months in the Lorain Correctional Facility.
Prosecutors had initially sought the same charge against Bobbie Green, 71, but in a recent plea agreement lowered this to negligent homicide, a misdemeanor. Green pleaded guilty to the charge several weeks ago. Judge Friedman sentenced Green to 6-months in prison, suspended with 2-years probation. Part of Green's probation includes not owning or caring for any dog, "I don’t care if it's a puppy," Friedman said. Green sat stone-faced while Friedman read her sentence.
A Small Victory for Ohio
Morton's conviction marks the first felony conviction for a fatal dog attack in Ohio since we began collecting a data set for all fatal dog maulings in January 2005 (a felony case in Montgomery County is ongoing). It is likely the only dog attack-related felony conviction in Cuyahoga County since 1993, when Jeffery Mann was convicted of murder after he ordered his pit bull to attack his girlfriend, Angela Kaplan, or held her as the dog attacked. Mann was sentenced to 15-years to life.
02/24/16: Criminal Charges Filed
Seven months after a pit bull attacked and killed 71-year old Annie Williams in a Shaker Heights residential neighborhood, two people now face charges in connection to her death. Bobbie Green, 70, and Leon Morton, 49, have been indicted on involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide charges. On July 12, 2015, Williams stopped by their home on Pennington Road to pick up her two great granddaughters. Before she made it to the front door, she was viciously attacked.
Annie's great grandchildren had been with their father at Green and Morton's home. The pit bull belonging to the pair attacked Annie as soon as she stepped out of her vehicle that she parked in their driveway. Several children witnessed the horrific attack, including a 13-year old who was inside Annie's car. Nearby neighbors rushed to help Williams; one even shot the dog injuring it, but it was too late. Annie died from bite wounds and crushing injuries to her neck, throat and body.
07/23/15: Family Seeks Change
After a beloved grandmother was horribly mauled to death by a pit bull, her family is setting up a foundation called, Any Salvation. Annie Williams, 71, was picking up her two great granddaughters from a home in Shaker Heights, where they were with their father, when a pit bull belonging to someone in the home brutally attacked her in the driveway. A 13-year old, who was in Williams' car at the time, and her two great grandchildren, ages 7 and 8, witnessed the horrendous attack.
Family members are now looking for someone in real need to give Williams' furniture, clothing, some household items and appliances to. "Since she was such a caring and giving woman, what better thing to do than to give it to someone who needs it," said her granddaughter, Tequila Williams. Another one of her granddaughters, Secunda Starr, added, "I want somebody that will benefit from it greatly and really take care of it and need it. I want someone to actually need it."
Family members also hope to make legislative changes in pit bull ownership. "We're all going to be very proactive in making sure that what happened to our grandmother does not continue to happen to other people," Tequila said. "What does it take for legislation, for representatives, for the law to see that this is an animal that no matter how kind you are to it, it cannot be controlled?" Annie is the 5th person killed by a pit bull in Ohio since the state dropped its pit bull law in 2012.
Follow, Scorched Earth, the Politics of Pit Bulls, to stay informed about pit bull issues in Ohio.
07/14/15: Cause of Death Released
A county medical examiner said that 71-year old Annie Williams who was attacked by a pit bull died from bite wounds and crushing injuries to her neck, throat and body. On Sunday, Williams stopped by a relative's home in Shaker Heights where the pit bull lived. The dog viciously attacked her in the homeowner's driveway as soon as she exited her vehicle. A 13-year old inside Williams' car witnessed the violent attack, along with at least two other children at the relative's home.
The most recent Fox 8 update includes clarifications about family members. Williams was at the home to pick up her two great grandchildren. Tequila Williams is one of several granddaughters. Another granddaughter, Secunda Starr, was at the home and witnessed the attack. Starr said the pit bull was on the home's front stoop just before the attack. "The dog immediately skipped a step and jumped off and attacked my grandma," Starr said. She tried to pull the dog off Williams.
The female relatives that Fox 8 interviewed said the same pit bull had recently attacked another dog in the home. Tequila wants those responsible to accept responsibility. "I want justice, the people responsible to accept responsibility," she said. Tequila is horrified in the manner of her death. "I’m just so sorry this happened to her. She was a beautiful woman and didn’t deserve to die this way," she said. She prays that while being attacked she did not suffer too long.
Yesterday's update from WKYC shows the doghouse in the backyard of the home and a gaping hole in the chain-link fence. Dog ownership details, however, still remain murky. 19 Action News identified Jerome Green as the owner of the home on Pennington Road. Green might eventually be on the hook for civil damages if the dog's owner remains unidentified. Police are investigating other animal complaints in the neighborhood to see if any are related to Sunday's lethal attack.
07/13/15: Woman Dies After Dog Attack
Shaker Heights, OH - An elderly woman has died after a vicious dog attack. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office identified the woman as 71-year old Annie Williams. The attack occurred Sunday in the 3600 hundred block of Pennington Road. The 911 caller identified the attacking dog as a "beige pit bull." The dog was fired upon by someone at the scene. Williams was taken to South Point Hospital where she later died. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.
"The dog just ran off. I don't know if they found the dog. It was a beige pit bull ... he's got blood all around its mouth." - 911 caller #1Cleveland.com clarifies that it was a neighbor who initially shot the pit bull. Shaker Heights police later located the dog in a backyard and shot and killed it. Darlene White, 45, witnessed the attack from her home two doors down. From her window she saw Williams on the ground. Several neighbors rushed to help. Another neighbor shot the dog as it continued attacking Williams. White said she heard police fire three gunshots. She said the entire attack lasted about 10-minutes.
"She was just basically laying there, lifeless ... All I know is there was blood everywhere. He did a nasty job." - Witness Darlene WhiteWhite said she has only seen the pit bull a few times, it's usually chained up behind her neighbor's house, she said. At least two people called 911. Cleveland.com has the recording of the second caller. "There is a dog on a person across the street," the caller told dispatch. "He's on top of a lady. Somebody is trying to get him off, they can't get him off!" she said. "It's a pit ... Somebody just shot him ... I heard a gunshot and ran back inside. I'm not going back out there!" said the caller.
ABC 5 reports that police confirmed the dog was a pit bull. 19 Action News reports that the victim was at the home picking up her two great granddaughters from their father when the dog attacked. A 13-year old relative was also inside Williams' car during the horrific mauling and the ensuing gunfire. Family members said the dog's owner lives in the home where Williams was picking up the two children. The pit bull was not licensed in Cuyahoga County, 19 Action News reports.
Tequila Williams, one of her granddaughters, said, "I didn't get to see her before this happened. She was always there for everybody. A stranger in the street, it didn't matter who it was. She was the sweetest person and her grandkids loved her," Tequila said. Shaker Heights police continue their investigation and are awaiting autopsy results from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office. William's violent mauling death marks the third U.S. fatal pit bull attack in a 10-day period.
Late Afternoon Updates
In an afternoon update by ABC 5, Tequila Williams said her two daughters, 7 and 8-years old, witnessed the violent attack from the window of their father's home. Williams was at the home to pick them both up. "My 8-year-old daughter answered the phone screaming and crying saying, 'Grandma, the dog just killed grandma, it bit her in the neck and they're trying to stop the blood,'" Tequila said. She also told ABC 5 that she was unaware the pit bull was even at the house.
"I asked [my daughter] where did this dog come from and she said that they kept it, it was in the backyard and they never let it out and only their father and grandmother were the ones allowed by the dog," Tequila said. A recent AP report states that Shaker Heights police Cmdr. John Cole said that that no one has been arrested and no one living in the home has claimed ownership of the dog. Cole stated that the attack occurred on the driveway of the property of Williams' relatives.
08/07/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Ohio Woman, 59, Attacked and Killed by Her Daughter's Pit Bull
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Pleads No Contest
UPDATE 04/18/16: The owner of a pack of pit bulls that killed a man last year pleaded no contest to a felony charge in exchange for a 3-year prison term. John Chester Smith, 63, entered the plea in a Jefferson-Lincoln County Circuit Court and will be sentenced in June, Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said. “The judge deferred sentencing so that Smith could get his business affairs in order,” Hunter explained. The victim, 36-year old De’Trick Omar Johnson, had no such luxury.
“This was a horrible death," Hunter said. "Even though Mr. Smith did not personally cause the death, our position was that there was recklessness on his part because of the dogs and it deserved prison time." If the case had gone to trial, prosecutors had evidence there had been four previous serious incidents involving Smith's dogs. It seems that with four previous attacks, including one that forced a man up a tree, a jury would have convicted and with stiffer prison time.
John Chester Smith got off easy considering his knowledge of his pit bulls' vicious propensities, as well as owning a pack of these dogs.On March 21, 2015, De’Trick Johnson of Pine Bluff drove to C.J.'s Garage, an auto repair shop owned by Smith, to have some repairs done on his car. As he waited outside the gate of the business, a pack of pit bulls owned by Smith charged beneath the gate and launched a lethal attack. The dogs destroyed him; one account said the attack lasted 20 minutes. The pit bulls were still tearing out his flesh when deputies arrived; they shot and killed four of the dogs on scene.
We are so sorry for Johnson's family members and close friends. We hope the plea deal of a 3-year prison sentence is sufficient. Smith's son, John Smith, and Johnson were best friends.
04/22/15: Manslaughter Charges
The Jefferson County prosecuting attorney's office announced today that a Pine Bluff man has been criminally charged in connection to the mauling death of De’Trick Johnson last month. John Chester Smith, 62-years old and the owner of C.J.'s Garage, was charged with manslaughter, a Class D felony. Maj. Lafayette Woods Jr., spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, said his office is still waiting on the arrest warrant. Deputies plan to arrest Smith on Friday.
03/26/15: Interview with Woods
Major Lafayette Woods, spokesman with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, explains part of the history of the attacking pit bulls owned by John Chester Smith in an extended interview with THV 11 (scroll to see second video). He explains his department's actions following biting incidents at C.J.'s Garage as recently as March 15 and in July 2014. The March 15 victim was uncooperative, Woods states. Other victims of these same dogs never reported the biting incidents, Woods said.1
Woods was quick to point out in the very first press release that the horrific mauling death of De'Trick Johnson, "furthers the stigma of pit bull terriers as aggressive and dangerous animals" and that in his "personal experiences" pit bulls "are just very loyal."2 Woods adds in the recent extended interview, "I don't want to alienate the breed. It's not necessarily the breed, its the animal's owners who irresponsibly ignore these signs of aggression in these dogs," he said.
Woods, apparently, has never reviewed national fatal dog attack statistics, which clearly show that pit bulls kill more people than all dog breeds combined. His anecdotal "personal experiences" are simply that -- anecdotal "personal experiences" -- ungrounded in statistical reality. Woods fails to acknowledge that many well-raised family pit bulls unpredictably attack and kill family members as well. Woods is a pit bull apologist who also holds the duty to protect the public from harm.
Pit Bulls Killing Family Members
During the last 10-year period (2005 through 2014), pit bulls were responsible for 62% (203) of attacks resulting in death. Of these attacks, 53% (107) involved a family pit bull killing a household member. More than half of all fatal attacks inflicted by pit bulls were inflicted upon a family member or person the dog knew well. Predictably, 98% (105) of these attacks occurred on the dog owner's property. What does Woods have to say to these 107 families, or even to this one mother?
"I never in a million years would ever think that (Killian) would have done something like that. That was just me listening to the reports and, you know, the experts. ‘Oh pit bulls have to be trained to be aggressive. If they're not trained that way, if they're not raised that way, it's fine.' ... They were the biggest babies. They were spoiled; they were never abused, never mistreated, big babies. I go to bed, they're going to bed (and) they're in the bed, under the covers, on a pillow, comfortable. He was a sweet dog, he was people friendly. The only thing was he didn't like other dogs," she said. - Shannon Easton-Hamer, whose son, Julian Slack, was mauled to death by a family pit bull in 2008.There is no question that the 8 pit bulls owned by John Chester Smith were guard dogs with a track record of bites, attacks and aggression and that Smith was an appalling, reckless owner who deserves jail time. For Woods to go on camera, however, and squarely blame "only the animal's owners" in all instances of violent pit bull attacks is an outrage. Sadly, Woods is just another uniformed voice in the "echo-chamber" of untruths regularly blared by rabid pit bull advocates.
03/24/15: Victim's Family Speaks Out
New details emerge after the brutal fatal pit bull mauling of De'Trick Johnson just outside of C.J.’s Garage at 300 Thomas Road on March 21. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office issued a news release on March 23 stating that the at large pit bull involved in Johnson’s death was shot and killed by deputies on Monday, and another pit bull, previously unaccounted for by the sheriff’s office was also seized. This brings a total of 8 pit bulls: 5 shot dead and 3 seized by authorities.
Family Members Speak Out
KATV reports an emotional interview with family members and friends of the victim, De'Trick Johnson. At front and center is the victim’s younger sister Akimi Johnson and the victim’s friend of 14-years and roommate, John Smith III, who is also the son of the owner of the dogs, John Chester Smith. Both Akimi and Smith III want to see justice done after De'Trick’s horrific mauling death. "I was not prepared for what happened to my brother," Akimi said holding back tears.
Smith told KATV that De'Trick jumped on his car to escape, and "the dogs actually jumped on the car with him because the mud is still on the car when we brought it home." He added that there were previous victims of these dogs. "I'm not just speaking because its De'Trick," Smith said, "I am speaking on the behalf of the other victims because he wasn't the first. He wasn't the second or the third, there was about four to five people that had been attacked by these same dogs."
In a powerful statement, Smith talks about his father’s utter disregard for people’s safety just like so many other pit bull owners. "After he bit the first man, what was it in your mind that you couldn't get rid of the dogs then? Then he turned around and bit somebody else and then turned around and bit somebody else then turned around and killed somebody. It's just unexplainable," Smith said. All of his family members had told his father, "You need to get rid of those dogs," Smith said.
The Gate and Discrepancies
The same two individuals also talked to Fox 16. It is learned here that Smith was at the early morning scene, but it seems only at the aftermath. He did not witness the violent attack. The Fox 16 footage also shows us the first time we see the "metal siding" leaned up against the front gate of the auto shop, a type of poor contraption designed by the dogs’ owner to keep the pack of dogs contained. Fox 16 also captures images of the remaining pit bulls at the Pine Bluff animal shelter.
It is unclear when the metal siding was placed against the front gate. It was absent in early news coverage. A segment from THV 11 today shows a close up of significant damage at the bottom of the siding as well, likely caused by the pit bulls. Finally, there may be serious time discrepancies. The sheriff's office said the 911 call came in just after the attack began; deputies arrived on scene 5 minutes later. An unverified account sent to DogsBite said the vicious attack lasted 20 minutes.3
Sheriff's spokesman Maj. Lafayette Woods Jr. said De'Trick Omar Johnson, 36, of Pine Bluff had taken his vehicle to CJ's Garage at 300 Thomas Road for servicing when he was attacked by the dogs. Woods said a 911 caller told operators that Johnson arrived at the property, exited his vehicle and was immediately attacked.03/21/15: Dog Mauling Victim Identified
The sheriff's office received the 911 call at 9:53 a.m. Saturday and the responding deputy arrived at 9:58 a.m., Woods said. - ArkansasOnline, March 22, 2015
The fatal dog mauling victim has been identified as 36-year old De'Trick Johnson of Pine Bluff. When the first deputy arrived on scene Johnson was still under attack by the pit bulls. Pine Bluff resident Tom Calvert and his daughter witnessed part of the attack. Calvert told THV 11 that his daughter drove up on the scene and saw the man trying to fight off the dogs. She called her father for help. She said, "Dad, come down to C.J.'s Garage! There are dogs chewing this man up."
"It's hard to describe, the man was just chewed up. The dogs just mauled him like a pack of wolves attacking someone." - Witness Tom CalvertTHV 11 also interviewed a Quality Fence Company employee, which is located next to C.J.’s Garage. This ties back to previous comments left by ChristyInPB, who wrote earlier today that her father "who owns the fence company next door" was attacked by these same dogs 6-months ago. Employee Roger Frazier said the auto repair "business owned the dogs" and used them to guard the property. Correction, C.J.’s ran a pit bull breeding operation allegedly to guard his business.4
Major Lafayette Woods with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office told THV 11 that he expects there will be charges filed against the owner of C.J.’s Garage, John Chester Smith, due to previous warrants and complaints. Woods did not provide any specific information at that time about earlier warrants or attacks. Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene. One dangerous pit bull still remains at large. We expect the THV 11 news segment video to air later this evening.
Late Evening Update
Scroll to see the second video on the THV 11 news report, the interview with Roger Frazier of Quality Fence. Frazier is the victim referred to by commenter Christy earlier today who escaped a similar fate to Johnson by climbing a nearby tree last year. The pit bulls also escaped under the owner's front gate in his attack -- the exact same method of escape in the fatal attack. Frazier is humble and reserved in the interview, maybe because he knows how close he came to death.
Roger Frazier03/21/15: Pack of Pit Bulls Kill Man
I was just coming back down the road there, walking back to the shop and five of the dogs, pit bulls, came under his gate and just tore me up. I struggled along the fence to one of those wooden fence posts, got on top of it and got into a tree -- that's the only thing that saved me. They tore my pants off of me.
Terrible vicious dogs. Even when the county sheriff came out, he shot one of them. And the other four, because I was still in the tree I could see ‘em, the other four didn't stop. They just slowed down a little bit, crouched down and kept coming for him…
They are ruthless, they surrounded me. And just started biting me all around, everywhere, all over. They just would not quit -- would not quit. Even after I got in the tree, they would not leave, they stayed and stayed. Then when the county sheriff got here, they tried to attack him.
The people from the animal service, when they got here. One of them stayed in the truck and one of them had to get on top of the hood of his truck because they would attack him. My brother came … he started to get out and they came after him. They were going after anybody that day …
[He describes the size and shape of the pit bulls]. They were a litter that they had a while before and they were starting to grow up.
Well, what went through my mind is that I knew this was going to happen. I made a point to drive over to his place and tell him what the dogs had done to me. I told him if he did not do something they would kill somebody. I told some other people that too. I told the sheriff that. I said, "Those dogs are going to kill somebody" ... And that’s what they did.
Something needs to happen for sure. Something should have happened when they got on me. At least somebody took the dogs away or did something; they just left them there. Now it’s not really my place to say, but I'm sure that that man’s family thinks that something should be done. - Roger Frazier, THV 11, March 21, 2015
Pine Bluff, AR - In a developing story, a pack of seven pit bulls brutally attacked and killed a man Saturday morning. Just before 11:00 am, a group of seven pit bulls charged beneath a fence and attacked a man at 300 Thomas Road, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said. Specifically, the incident happened at C.J.'s Garage, an auto repair shop in the Pine Bluff area. Deputies shot and killed four of the pit bulls on scene, two others were captured and another remains at large.
C. J.'s garage is also listed at 300 N Thomas Road in White Hall with the same phone number, a jurisdiction under 8-miles away. The jurisdiction of Pine Bluff bans pit bulls. Arkansas continues to rack up deadly dog maulings. In the 8-year period of 2005 through 2012, there were 3 fatal dog attacks in the state. From January 1, 2013 to present -- just over two years -- there have been 6 fatalities. Two deaths in 2013 involved dogs from the same litter killing two unrelated people.
Late Afternoon Update
Commenter ChristyInPB at the KATV news article helps explain the jurisdictional issue. The location apparently falls outside of the Pine Bluff city limits; control likely resides with Jefferson County. She wrote that her father "who owns the fence company next door" was attacked by the same dogs 6-months ago. Afterward, her father repeatedly warned authorities to take action or "these dogs WOULD kill someone," but they said the dogs did not live within city boundaries.
@ChristyInPB (13 mins ago) "These same dogs attacked my father at who owns the fence company next door about 6 months ago. This was NOT the first incident! If it wasnt for quick thinking my father would not of survived! He had to climb a fence and still was taking by ambulance to the hospital with cuts and deep bites. The paramedic in the ambulance that came was forced to jump on his ambulance to escape them while my father was still in the tree he had to climb up to escape them. When the sheriff showed he was forced to shoot and kill one to prevent him from attacking him!"Also, in 2012, Deborah Rene Wilson Roberts, 45-years old, was mauled to death by her own two pet pit bulls in Jefferson County, Arkansas. The dogs had previously attacked Roberts.
@ChristyInPB (12 mins ago) "This could of been a child! Andd it could of been prevented! Unacceptable! My father was unable to get anything done to the dogs or the risk for anyone in the vaconity! He warned the authorities repeatedly that if not handled these dogs WOULD kill someone! YES they were pitbulls! But no I dont blame the breed! But if ANY animals are this dangerous it shouldnt matter that they are not in city limits! This was the reason for no action being done after the incident with my father! A life could have been saved! This could of been a child! Andd it could of been prevented! Unacceptable!" - KATV Commenter
2Not one major media source used Woods' quotation -- intentionally written by Woods to be used as a quotation by the media -- in the March 21 press release.
3There indeed are time discrepancies. Just after our March 24 update it was released that neighbor William Lever's mother was one of the first to see the attack (unclear how long the mauling had been going on before she saw). Her call to 911 lasted over 8 minutes.
4Was there more than one business at the location the pit bulls were guarding? One has to ask because so many auto body repair and paint shops are used as fronts.
02/20/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: 63-Year Old Arkansas Man Killed by Family Dogs
11/09/14: Criminal Trial: Arkansas Mother and Daughter on Trial for Fatal Dog Mauling of...
10/24/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Killed by Family Pit Bull in Cave City, Arkansas
01/03/14: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman, 75, Killed by Bullmastiff in Arkansas Gated Community
11/19/13: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Boy Dies After Attacked by Pit Bulls in White County, Arkansas
06/13/13: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Child Temporarily Staying with Aunt Killed by Neighbor's Dog
09/11/12: 2012 Dog Bite Fatality: Jefferson County Woman Attacked by Own Pit Bulls Dies
Photos: KATV.com and Google.com
Monday, April 4, 2016
DA's Full Press Release
DogsBite.org - On January 3, Tyler Trammell-Huston, 9, was brutally killed by three pit bulls after his half-sister left him alone in a dilapidated trailer with the dogs for three hours. Alexandria Griffin-Heady, 24, arrived home and found Tyler face down near the doorway bloody and covered in bite wounds. All three of her pit bulls were loose in the trailer, including the two younger dogs she had left in an "improvised" collapsible wire crate, requiring padlocks and more to keep the dogs secure.
On January 19, the Yuba County Sheriff's Department issued a statement recommending that criminal charges be filed against Griffin-Heady in connection to Tyler's death. Undersheriff Jerry Read said in the statement that his office forwarded the results of their investigation to District Attorney Patrick McGrath and requested "that a complaint be filed against Griffin-Heady charging her with felony child endangerment.” The forwarded report was over 60-pages in length.
On March 25, District Attorney Patrick McGrath issued a protracted 7-page press release outlining why his office will not bring charges in this case. McGrath did not even submit the case to the grand jury.After McGrath announced that he would not file charges in connection to Tyler's death, we requested a copy of the 7-page press release. We wanted to examine it. In mid February -- along with other groups and individuals -- DogsBite.org submitted a letter to the district attorney strongly encouraging his office to file criminal charges against Griffin-Heady.1 Not only did McGrath decide not to, he did not even provide the opportunity for the grand jury to make this final decision.
A Confession of Cowardice
After reading the 7-page news release, the founder and board members of DogsBite.org all had the same response: Cowardly. After sharing the news release with attorney Kenneth Phillips of DogBiteLaw.com, its meaning became even sharper. The protracted letter is a "confession of cowardice," Phillips wrote, that is ill-considered, unjust and "contrary to the public interest." It mutes the only way the public ever could hear Tyler's voice again, by prosecuting the case.
"Outrageous, ill-considered, cowardly, unjust, and contrary to the public interest. A jury certainly would convict if a prosecutor worth his or her salt tried the case. This long letter is a confession of cowardice." - Attorney Kenneth PhillipsWe also believe that a bold prosecutor, outraged by yet another destructive and preventable pit bull mauling death of a child, could get a jury to convict. Phillips also reminded us that in the case of Diane Whipple, prosecutors only asked the grand jury to indict the defendants on charges that would have brought a 4-year prison sentence. After hearing the evidence, the grand jury instead indicted for second-degree murder, and the trial jury indicted Marjorie Knoller for exactly that.
The failure of McGrath to understand how deeply the public detests dangerous dogs and their equally dangerous owners could not be more evident. The failure to submit this case to the grand jury emphasizes this lack of understanding even more. Tyler Trammell-Huston was the 147th child cruelly mauled to death by a pit bull since the CDC stopped studying this area in 2000. The public is tired of these gruesome deaths and outraged that many of these owners walk away scott-free.
Tyler did not stand a chance. Left alone in a small dilapidated trailer, which was in a "state of disrepair and general uncleanliness, and smelled of urine and animal feces," states the DA's letter. Tyler tried to take refuge from the dogs in a narrow gap along a side wall near the trailer door (18 inches by 4 feet). The gap provided no safety from the jaws of the pit bulls, which destroyed him by attacking his "head and scalp," states the letter. Common fatal injuries inflicted by pit bulls.
Outrageous, Ill-Considered, Cowardly
The very fact this case would be challenging to prosecute -- most fatal dog mauling cases are -- is why McGrath should have at least submitted it to the grand jury. This case involves the savage mauling death of a "visiting" child who was left alone with these dogs in a lousy temporary space. Tyler was left in a cramped trailer in a "state of disrepair" and smelling of "urine and animal feces" with three pit bulls -- two of them were in a "improvised" flimsy wire crate that the dogs dismantled.
That should be enough material to work with right there, along with any previous acts of aggression. McGrath's letter states that Griffin-Heady admitted that she suspected her younger male pit bull killed her cat just a few weeks before Tyler's brutal death. There were over a dozen statements by witnesses too, many of which the public will never hear about now. The sheriff's office also believed there was enough evidence to file the felony child endangerment charge.
In our letter that we sent to the DA's office in February, encouraging them to file criminal charges, we did not address the issue of the "dangerousness of pit bulls." Unfortunately, that is largely separate from the evidence needed to prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal trial. However, Griffin-Heady did leave Tyler alone with her three pit bulls, two of which were poorly secured. The dog left unsecured, the adult female, was also one of the two primary attackers.2
"A responding deputy described the dogs as scared and panicked, but not aggressive. Two of the dogs -- the older female and the younger male -- were noted to have bloodied facial and body fur." - DA Patrick McGrathWhile perhaps not a legal factor to be considered by a jury, the dog's breed cannot be fully ignored either. Griffin-Heady did not leave Tyler alone with three bichons. If she had, Tyler would still be alive today. Juries understand that powerful dog breeds, and not just one, in this case a pack of them, present a graver risk of danger, especially to children. As this case also shows, two of the pit bulls were able to break out of the "snap together" wire crate in short order and kill Tyler.
Contrary to the Public Interest
In Iowa, after a babysitter's pit bull killed a 4-year old girl under her care, the Jasper County DA's office believed it was in the public interest to bring the case to trial, no matter the outcome. Prosecutors encountered many difficulties too, including the case taking 2-years to reach trial. Those prosecutors deeply sought justice for Jordyn and a penalty for the babysitter. They got it too; the jury convicted on all counts. All of these virtues are absent after the death of Tyler.3
Though in a different state, we bring up the Jena Wright conviction because it was a not a surefire win.4 It was also a "law building" case -- it expanded existing law. We understand that prosecutors refuse many cases that are not surefire wins. Yet critical "gray area" cases, that if won will expand existing law, especially in the area of child protections, are the ones to deeply consider taking a risk on. In the case of Tyler, the Yuba County DA did not even submit the case to the grand jury.5
McGrath could have presented a poor case, leading the grand jury to return no indictment. Then he could have told the public, "There is nothing else I can do." Instead, he refused to submit it to the grand jury at all.What has resulted instead is the worst possible outcome. An ill-considered, cowardly and unjust decision by McGrath that is contrary to the public interest. His decision mutes this boy's horrific and preventable mauling death, mutes any further discussions about criminal charges and allows Griffin-Heady to walk away scott-free after her pit bulls destroyed her 9-year old half-brother. Tyler is now just "one more" child mutilated and killed by vicious dogs whose owner went unpunished.
The "Improvised" Wire Crate
The DA's letter goes to great lengths to carefully explain the wire crate where the two 18-month old offspring pit bulls were secured when Griffin-Heady left that morning. In addition to the factory latches, there were two third party padlocks, one on the top and bottom of the front door of the crate. The side door had no third party padlocks; the bottom latch was secured, the top latch was not. A plastic zip tie secured "a portion" of the top corner of the crate frame, states the letter.
We believe the crate was a 36-inch double door, folding wire crate, similar to this one. (We asked McGrath for the actual model, but he did not know it.) Please visualize two pit bulls inside this wire crate, roughly 40-50 pounds each, a padlock on the top and bottom of the long front door and a zip tie securing "a portion" of the top corner -- that might look something like this.6 The dogs busted through the top edge of the crate to escape, states the letter -- that might look something like this.
McGrath's letter states the dogs had escaped the crate previously by "pawing at the latches" on the front door, which caused Griffin-Heady to get the two padlocks. What was excluded from the letter was part of an affidavit obtained by the Appeal-Democrat in late January that stated the pit bulls could escape "by just pawing at the door and breaking the top off the crate." Her pit bulls had escaped through the top before and Griffin-Heady's only solution was a single plastic zip tie.7
Was it foreseeable the two pit bulls would escape the flimsy wire crate "again," one that never should have had two pit bulls inside? We believe yes, and a grand jury would too if it was ever properly presented to them.Show a grand jury this "improvised" folding wire crate, requiring two padlocks and a plastic zip tie to appear functional with two 40-50 pound pit bulls stuffed inside -- a male and female both unsterilized and sexually mature. Then place the crate on a wooden bench, as it was inside the travel trailer. Was it foreseeable the pit bulls would escape again? On page 7 of the letter, McGrath states that a jury would not find the dogs escaping in the "manner" they did as "foreseeable."
Animal Behaviorist Weighs In
We reached out to animal behaviorist and author, Alexandra Semyonova, as well. The escape of Griffin-Heady’s pit bulls was "foreseeable, both because of the flimsy construction of all wire crates and because of the laws of behavior," she wrote. Semyonova comments on these easily bendable crates, how none can hold a "determined dog," and if a behavior "just once" succeeds in attaining its goal, the animal can be very persistent in trying again and again until the goal is reached."
The crate problemPlease see Semyonova's full response that contains links to videos showing escapes without fully unlocking the wire crate door, escapes by disengaging the front or side paneling or collapsing the whole wire crate and escapes by breaking through the top edge of one of these crates.
None of these wire crates will hold a determined dog. In order to make them light enough for the owner’s convenience, the wire is kept light. This means it’s easily bent. The various clips and catches are also designed for owner ease, which makes them easy for dogs to figure out. Escape from these crates is such a common problem that dog forums and YouTube are full of discussions about it. Dogs big and small try various tactics until they discover a way out. Many escape by simply nosing at a crack until they bend a door, a corner, or the top open. They squirm out without unlocking the door or otherwise actually opening the crate.
Some dogs figure out how to completely disengage the front from the rest of the cage, flipping it down so they can get out. Some even collapse the whole cage. If a dog can’t get the front or a corner to open, it’ll eventually try the top. Dogs easily learn to chew through zip ties too. Some types will even chew at the welds until something cracks open enough to worm out. This is so widely known that advertisers use it to sell their sturdier cages.
The laws of behavior
If a behavior once -- just once -- succeeds in attaining its goal, the animal can be very persistent in trying again and again until the goal is reached. If the behavior that succeeded the first time doesn’t work, the animal will try out other behaviors. A dog has discovered that a sit gets it a treat. The next time, the owner ignores the sit. The dog then tries pawing the owner. It tries sticking a nose under a hand or arm. It whines a bit. It brings a toy. It barks. It has learned that its behavior can get it what it wants, so it tries out all kinds of behaviors. At some point, one of the alternative behaviors gets the dog what it wants. The dog has learned that persistence and varying tactics pay off. Competent trainers use this behavioral law all the time; it’s one of the main things behavior modification is based on. This is exactly what is going on when a dog that has once escaped a crate persistently tries other tactics to get out again. This can go to extremes. A dog that has once -- just once -- escaped a cage can be so sure it’ll succeed again that it seriously wounds itself in trying other tactics. There are only two ways to know if you can safely contain a dog in a crate: 1) The dog is trained such that it doesn’t mind being crated and never even tries to escape; 2) The dog is so securely contained that it never has a success -- not even once -- in escaping.
- Alexandra Semyonova, animal behaviorist and author
We believe that District Attorney Patrick McGrath's 7-page letter is a confession of cowardice. His decision failed to serve the public interest and most importantly failed to provide justice to a 9-year old boy savagely killed by his half-sister's pit bulls, whose only voice today could be heard if prosecutors pursued the case, however difficult. McGrath dismissed the Yuba County Sherriff's Office recommendation to file charges and even failed to submit the case to the grand jury.
The failure of McGrath to recognize how intensely the public abhors dangerous dogs and their reckless owners is painfully evident and comes at a high cost. The choice of cowardice over serving justice to a child left alone with three pit bulls -- two enclosed in the same flimsy wire crate requiring multiple third party devices, in "hopes" of keeping it secure -- ensures that more children will suffer a similar cruel, horrific fate and the owners of these violent dogs will away scott-free.
#TheWorstCowardice #YubaCountyDA #FatalPitBullAttack #NoJustice
PLEASE TAKE ACTION! Three days after we published this update, California-based dog bite attorney Kenneth Phillips began a campaign to call on California Attorney General Kamala Harris to review this case. Any member of the public can participate by downloading the letter drafted by Phillips and sending it to the Attorney General. Please see his post about this and take action!
03/25/16: DA Won't File Charges
The Yuba County DA announced today that there will be no criminal charges filed in connection to the mauling death of a 9-year old boy. On January 3, Tyler Trammell-Huston was savagely attacked and killed by his half-sister's three pit bulls after she left him alone with the dogs for three hours in a travel trailer. This decision comes after the Yuba County Sheriff's Office recommended in January that Alexandria Griffin-Heady, 24, should be charged with felony child endangerment.
"McGrath said the sister leaving the child with the dogs didn’t constitute behavior “incompatible with a proper regard for human life” under the law or indicated that she had a “willing indifference to the consequences” of her behavior." - SacBee.comDA Patrick McGrath's decision ultimately says that if your pit bulls break out of a wire crate, a crate the dogs had escaped from before by just "pawing at the door" -- thus requiring a padlock and cable ties -- and kill a child that has been left alone with the dogs, you will not be penalized. This and other evidence the public never got a chance to see is insufficient to prove Griffin-Heady could have "foreseen" the attack or "foreseen" that her dogs would escape again, according to McGrath.
The decision to not bring charges is explained in a 7-page news release. We requested a copy from the DA's office earlier today. Once received, we can more closely examine the decision.
01/24/16: Court Documents Filed
Court documents filed in connection to the mauling death of Tyler Trammell-Huston, 9, show that the chips are stacking up against his half-sister, Alexandria Griffin-Heady. Tyler was brutally attacked and killed by Griffin-Heady's three pit bulls after she left him alone with the dogs for several hours in a small trailer on January 3. The documents state that her pit bulls previously attacked a child and that Tyler was not allowed to play with the dogs without supervision.
Griffin-Heady may face a charge of felony child endangerment. The district attorney's office will make a filing decision in the coming weeks.A deputy's affidavit states: "Heady told me her dogs have attacked one other person before and that was her 4-year old niece." When the girl went outside, the dogs knocked her down and scratched her face, reports the Appeal-Democrat. Griffin-Heady's attorney Roberto Marquez was quick to dispute the statement, calling it a "miss-characterization" of the incident. The dogs were "licking her" when she was knocked down and accidentally scratched by the dogs, Marquez said.
The affidavit also reveals that both 18-month old offspring dogs, a male and female, were kept together in a metal crate "because they were very destructive of the trailer if she left them alone," states the Democrat. The two pit bulls had been able to escape from the metal crate previously by just "pawing at the door" and breaking the top off the crate, states the document. Griffin-Heady recently used a padlock and cable ties to better secure the crate, according to the affidavit.
Griffin-Heady then blames Tyler for not knowing how to interact with her dogs. In the affidavit, she told the deputy that he "tried to wrestle with Noah to the point that Noah became irritated, growled and pulled away from him," states the Democrat. She also told the deputy, "she has seen him kicking at them and hitting them with a shoe lace," the affidavit states. She even told Tyler that "he was not allowed to interact with them without her direct supervision," according to the affidavit.
Leaving out the disputed incident, Griffin-Heady left Tyler alone with her three pit bulls in a small trailer for three hours. Two of them were allegedly secured inside a metal crate that both dogs had escaped from before. They broke free again and killed Tyler. She then states that Tyler had acted inappropriately with her dogs and was told he could not interact with them without her supervision. Knowing this, Griffin-Heady still left her brother alone with her pit bulls under these conditions.
On Friday, Griffin-Heady got busy on Facebook defending the breed too (see whole thread).
01/19/16: Felony Charges Recommended
The Yuba County Sheriff's Office issued a statement Tuesday evening recommending criminal charges be filed against Alexandria Griffin-Heady, 24, in connection to the death of her 9-year old half-brother. On January 3, Tyler Trammell-Huston was mauled to death by her three pit bulls after she left him alone with the dogs in a dilapidated trailer for three hours. The sheriff's office is recommending that the district attorney charge Griffin-Heady with felony child endangerment.
In the statement Yuba County Undersheriff Jerry Read said that his office forwarded the results of their investigation to District Attorney Patrick McGrath and is “requesting that a complaint be filed against Griffin-Heady charging her with felony child endangerment.” Griffin-Heady has not been charged or arrested yet. The recommendation indicates there is evidence that Griffin-Heady knew her dogs were dangerous; the dogs had shown aggression toward animals or humans in the past.
In a tearful press conference just days after his death, Griffin-Heady apparently said she had never known her dogs to be aggressive toward "humans." However, this direct quotation is not in the edited version of the video. In California, a felony child endangerment conviction can lead to a sentence of up to six years in state prison. It is now up to the district attorney's office to the review the investigation by the sheriff's department and determine whether to pursue the felony charge.
The Appeal Democrat provided more details in a report updated later in the evening. The Yuba County sheriff's detectives report was more than 60 pages in length and included more than a dozen witness statements. Deputy District Attorney Michael Byrne told the Democrat, "Cases like that get reviewed by more than one attorney in the office before we go forward." He added that this can take time. "There won't be any decisions made until the next week or so," Byrne said.
01/13/16: All Three Pit Bulls Euthanized
On Wednesday, the three pit bulls that savagely attacked and killed a 9-year old boy were euthanized, according to Jerry Read, the Undersheriff for the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department. The pit bulls fatally attacked Tyler Trammell-Huston in a dilapidated trailer after his sister, 24-year old Alexandria Griffin-Heady, left him alone with the animals for three hours. Tyler was in the foster care system at the time of his death and was on an approved overnight visit with Griffin-Heady.
On the day Tyler was laid to rest, his father, John Huston, filed a claim for damages against Sacramento County Child Protective Services. Huston suffers from a mental incapacity that limited his ability to raise Tyler, according to a news release written by Huston's attorney, Moseley Collins. "As a result, CPS took Tyler from his father," states the release. In an ABC 10 video, Moseley also states, "How is that protecting a child to let him go stay in a trailer with 3 pit bulls, alone? It's not."
Griffin-Heady has maintained since the attack that not all of the dogs were involved and that she is deeply saddened to see two of the dogs also put down. She maintains that the mother pit bull, Coca, and her female offspring, Athena, were insignificantly involved or uninvolved in the fatal pack attack. She believes the male offspring, Noah, was the primary attacker, even though both he and Athena were allegedly kenneled when she left that morning. Somehow they both got out.
Both offspring are 1.5 years old, the age when pit bulls reach sexual maturity and when the breed's aggressive behavior often first appears.The Yuba County Sheriff’s Office hopes to have their investigation and report completed by the end of the week to forward to the district attorney's office. Whether any criminal charges will be filed is unknown. Griffin-Heady could face child endangerment charges for leaving Tyler alone with her three pit bulls. Tyler's preventable mauling death by his sister's three pit bulls raises many legal and moral questions about who is responsible, if anyone, or are multiple parties to blame.
01/07/16: Father Pursues Lawsuit Against CPS
In a recent article, the Sacramento Bee interviews Tyler's former foster parent, several family members and legal experts. At the time of the fatal pit bull attack, Tyler lived with his foster parent, Gloria Hudson, in Elk Grove. Hudson had concerns about his sister gaining custody of him, but Tyler was so excited at the idea -- and had already been through so much with the loss of his mother in 2011 and bouncing between foster parents -- that Hudson was at peace with it.
Hudson said a judge was going to determine later in January whether Tyler could move in full time with his 24-year old sister, Alexandria Griffin-Heady, and her pit bulls, provided she moved to an apartment. During his school's recent winter break, Tyler spent several weeks with his sister and her dogs in the small trailer parked adjacent to where two of his siblings lived. Hudson was expecting Tyler to return home on Sunday when she got a call from CPS saying he was dead.
"When Child Protection Services called me, I just screamed." - Gloria HudsonOn Sunday morning, during an overnight weekend visit with his sister, Tyler was attacked and killed by her pit bulls after she left him alone with the dogs for three hours. Tyler's aunt, Laura Badeker, holds CPS largely responsible. Badeker had warned CPS that Alexandria was unstable. Tyler's father, John Huston, is pursuing a lawsuit against CPS. Huston is mentally disabled and unable to care for his son, but he visited Tyler regularly, his attorney Moseley Collins said.
Possible Criminal Charges
In a slew of media reports Wednesday night, Alexandria tried her case in front of the media. Gushing regret during a press conference, she said: "There are a thousand things I could have done differently." Alexandria could and should face child endangerment charges after her three pit bulls brutally killed her 9-year old half-brother. At the very least, she needs several years of parole and a strict prohibition from owning any pit bulls and overseeing any child during this period.
As usual in cases like this, in order for Yuba County authorities to bring criminal charges against Alexandria they will likely need evidence that she knew or should have known of the dogs' vicious propensities. Had any of her pit bulls attacked or shown aggression in the past? This may be very difficult to prove since Alexandria lived in multiple places in the country, including in a motel room in Florida with her three pit bulls, prior to moving to Northern California a few months ago.
"[The pit bulls] were my companion animals. They were my babies. What made them do that I will never know." - Pit bull owner, Alexandria Griffin-HeadyThe worst offender is Child Protection Services, who failed miserably in their duty to protect Tyler. In some parts of the U.S. child protection agencies will not allow a parent or guardian with pit bulls to care for the child. They will force the relocation of the dogs. This should be the norm, not the exception across all CPS agencies. In this case, and with Alexandria's extremely troubled past, they allowed the boy to live with her in the travel-trailer with quite literally a pack of pit bulls.
01/04/16: Under the Care of His Sister
The 9-year old boy has been identified as Tyler Trammell-Huston.8 At the time of the deadly attack, he was staying with his older sister who was trying to "rescue" him from the foster system, reports the Sacramento Bee. Instead of "rescuing" him, her three pit bulls savagely killed him after she left Tyler alone with the animals during a weekend visit. His sister, Alexandria Griffin-Heady, 24, discovered his badly injured body when she returned home after being away for several hours.
According to Tyler's aunt, Laura Badeker, Tyler was in protective custody and living at a foster home under the care of Sacramento County Child Protective Services at the time of his death, reports the SacBee. Badeker said that she repeatedly told the county agency she thought Tyler was unsafe with Alexandria, who lives in a travel-trailer and was granted unsupervised overnight visits with her brother after she moved to Northern California from Florida several months ago.
Badeker believes Alexandria was "trying to do the right thing" by aiming for custody of Tyler, but that her living situation was too unstable. Badeker also did not believe Tyler was safe with her three pit bulls. Life for Tyler and his four siblings was "marked by crime, drug abuse and homelessness," reports the SacBee. Their mother, Natalie Griffin-Trammell, died on the streets of Sacramento in 2011, after years of battling homelessness and drug addictions, Badeker said.
Two of Tyler's siblings live with their adoptive parents in a home on a property adjacent to where Alexandria was living in the travel-trailer, Badeker said. Before moving to California, Alexandria had been living in a motel room in Florida with her pit bulls. Badeker said she had a love for pit bulls, believing they are unfairly "stigmatized and maligned." Alexandria's Facebook page is filled with images of her pit bulls, as is her YouTube page, where she refers to them as her "wolfpack."
When Pit Bull Advocacy Kills
On October 7, 2014, she shared a video popular with pit bull advocates on her Facebook page depicting a pit bull crawling into a baby's bed and stated: "Too all pit haters, or people who dislike the bread due to being violent., here is a fun fact. Anybody know what they were originally bread for? Anybody? The nanny... to look over and protect the babies. #Lovemypit" Obviously, that is untrue. Pit bulls were selectively bred for explosive aggression and to execute the killing bite.
Tyler is dead because like many young people, Alexandria believes the false myths about pit bulls, primarily pushed by the Pit Bull Propoganda Machine, that deny the breed's purpose bred heritage of bull-baiting and dogfighting. Who cares if Alexandria now finally recognizes the truth? Tyler is already dead. CPS is part of this boy's preventable death too. They allowed Tyler to be with his sister and her three pit bulls for the weekend in a small travel-trailer without a working bathroom.
As we were writing this update, Alexandria began privatizing (hiding) her Facebook photos.
01/04/16: Family Pit Bulls Kill
Linda, CA - A 9-year old boy was killed by three pit bulls at his home in Linda Sunday, the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department said. The boy had been left alone with the family pit bulls. Sheriff's deputies responded to a report of the attack about 10:00 am. The child's guardian, they learned, left him in the home on the 6200 block of Dunning Avenue with the dogs while she went to work. When she returned three hours later, she found him attacked, suffering life-threatening injuries.
The boy was pronounced dead at Rideout Memorial Hospital just after arrival, according to Undersheriff Jerry Read. No arrests have been made at this time. Child endangerment charges may be forthcoming against the boy's guardian, whose name was not provided, pending further investigation. All three dogs were seized from the home, a 4-year old female pit bull and her two 1.5-year old offspring. None of the dogs had a history with Animal Care Services, Read said.
Nearby Fatal Pit Bull Attack
On December 16, 2015, 57-year old Maria Torres was mauled to death by two family pit bulls just 30-miles away in Gridley, which lies in Butte County and is adjacent to Yuba County. Both counties are north of Sacramento. At the time of Torres' deadly attack, investigators believed she was trying to break up a fight between the two pit bulls. The Butte County Sheriff's Office later issued a press release stating, "the dogs had injuries consistent with being involved in a fight with one another."
2After the DA issued the press release, Griffin-Heady continued to deny the mother pit bull was involved in the deadly attack. She posted a comment on this video, "I had three Pitts. one attacked my brother. One! The eldest of the three tried to stop it. she tried to protect him. and laid with him until I got there." A complete utter fantasy.
3The virtues of Courage, Justice, Responsibility and Perseverance.
4On the last day of the trial, prosecutors presented a rebuttal witness who greatly impacted the case. They learned about the person just a few days earlier. Many things can happen during a trial, including uncovering new evidence.
5McGrath made it clear by February 15 that he had little intention of submitting the case to the grand jury. "He hasn't yet decided if a grand jury will be used to determine if Griffin-Heady will face charges, but it's not likely."
6We created the two pit bulls based upon this YouTube video showing two similar sized pit bulls in roughly a 36 x 24 inch wire crate. When the brown pit bull sits upright, it has to lower its head. Notably this pit bull owner states, "This is for Lady (black/white). Hugo's crate is slightly larger, and you might be able to see it in the background, but this is NOT how they are left while I'm away from home." Griffin-Heady had both of her pit bulls stuffed into one crate.
7Monica Vaughan, "Dogs’ past behavior disputed in mauling," Appeal Democrat, January 22, 2016.
8In earlier news reports, he was identified as Tyler Griffin-Huston. His mother, Natalie Griffin-Trammell, appears to have been married more than once. Tyler was the youngest of 5. His other siblings range from ages 17 to 27.
04/07/16: The Tyler Huston Case: How You Can Take Action - DogBiteLaw.com
04/07/16: Prosecutor Applies Wrong Law, Says Leading Dog Bite Law Attorney
12/17/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Gridley Woman Mauled To Death by Her Two Pet Pit Bulls
09/10/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bulls Kill Man, Injure Woman in North Shore, California
03/25/15: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Stockton Woman Mauled to Death by Pit Bull
11/04/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bulls Kill Modesto Man, Critically Injure Another
10/03/14: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Antelope Valley Woman Mauled to Death by Pit Bulls