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Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Susie Kirby, 3-days old, was killed by Shar Pei-pit bull mix dogs at this home.
New Details Released
UPDATE 06/29/16: More details have been released about Susie Kirby, a 3-day old baby girl that was attacked and killed by her uncle's dog. Prior to going to the bathroom, the mother placed Susie on a recliner-type couch and placed pillows around her so that she would not fall off, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said. It was also the mother who propped open the door to let in cooler air, he said. She did not know that one of the dogs with a history of aggression was not tied up.
"While she was in the bathroom, the dog came through the door, grabbed the infant and took that baby outside." - Fresno Police Chief Jerry DyerAt that point, the baby's uncle came home -- he had run out to the store -- and discovered the dogs attacking the baby. "When she came out the child was gone," Dyer said. "In fact, when she was in the bathroom, she heard her brother outside yelling and screaming because he had come home from the store and found the child outside," Dyer said. Police have turned the case over to Child Protection Services for a complete investigation. However, no charges are anticipated.
Third 3-Day Old Baby Killed
Susie marks the third 3-day old baby killed by a family dog this year. In April a pit bull-mix rehomed by the San Diego Humane Society killed 3-day old Sebastian Caban. The young couple was lying in bed with their baby and the dog, when the dog unpredictably lashed out. The couple adopted the male pit bull-mix, named Polo, 5-months earlier, while the mother was still pregnant. It was an unwise decision to adopt this dog and an even worse one to allow it on the bed with a newborn.
In February, 3-day old Aiden Grim was bitten on the head by a family dog and died in Youngstown, Ohio. A forensic pathologist did not characterize that bite as a "mauling," but rather the dog picked up the baby by the head and its teeth punctured the infant's soft skull causing brain injuries and death. In the case of Susie, it seems clear now that it was a mauling. It was a predatory attack by a Shar Pei-pit bull mix with a history of aggression. It also appears that both dogs were involved.
Our heart goes out to the mother. Susie's death, however, was extremely preventable. All three of these baby deaths were. Newborns are entirely defenseless and the most vulnerable of all. All household dogs need to be taken into critical consideration when a baby enters a home. No pit bull-type dogs or other dangerous breeds should be near an infant. In this case, keeping the dogs, one known to be aggressive, "tied up outside" was an unreliable solution that ended in death.
06/27/16: Dogs Kill Newborn
Fresno, CA - Early Monday morning, Fresno Police responded to a call of a dog biting an infant. Up to two dogs attacked the newborn baby at a home on the 3700 block of North Glenn Avenue about 12:30 am. The baby girl was transported to Community Regional Medical Center, where she later died, according to Sgt. Dan Macias. The baby's 33-year old mother had thought her brother's two male dogs were chained up in the backyard when the deadly attack occurred, police said.
A door was left open to allow cooler air to come in. When the mother went to the restroom, one or both dogs came in and killed her baby.The two male dogs are described as Shar Pei-pit bull mix dogs owned by the baby's 30-year old uncle. Police did not identify the baby's mother or the uncle, who surrendered both dogs to the Central California Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The mother told police that one of his dogs is aggressive. The two adults and the baby were the only ones in the house, Macias said. Though charges have not been ruled out, Macias believes this was an "unfortunate accident."
In a late evening report by YourCentralValley, family members identified the 3-day old baby girl as Susie Kirby. The news group also spoke to Sgt. Dan Macias, who said it was the uncle who saw the dog attacking the baby. "She was in the bathroom at the time and heard screaming," Macias said. "That's when the 30-year old man, who had come home, saw the dog biting the child." Though only one of the dogs was involved in the fatal attack, both animals will be euthanized.
04/29/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Rehomed by Humane Society Kills Newborn Baby
02/09/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Newborn Dies After Being Bitten by Family Dog
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
2016 Dog Bite Fatality: New Haven Woman Dies After Violent 'Hannibal Lecter' Style Mauling by Pit Bull-Type Dogs
Harvard Graduate, Doctor in Residency Owns the Dogs
Jocelyn Winfrey died after being violently attacked by two pit bull-type dogs.
Images of the Dogs
UPDATE 06/28/16: Today multiple news media outlets published photographs of the pit bull-type dogs that brutally attacked Jocelyn Winfrey on June 20. Winfrey died from catastrophic injuries inflicted by the dogs one week later. The two "American bulldog-mixes" belong to Dr. Hamilton Hicks, who got the dogs while living in Miami-Dade County prior to moving to New Haven. Last week, Animal Control Officer Joseph Manganiello refused to allow the media to view the dogs.
06/27/16: Victim Did Not Survive
A 53-year old New Haven woman who suffered catastrophic injuries after a violent attack by two pit bull-type dogs last week has died. Alderman Brian Wingate, who witnessed part of the grisly mauling, confirmed Jocelyn Winfrey's death Monday evening. On June 20, Winfrey and the dogs' owner, Dr. Hamilton Hicks, returned to his home. After they entered into his fenced-in yard, his two dogs brutally attacked Winfrey. Hicks attempted to intervene, but he could not stop his dogs.
Wingate previously described the attack as producing "Hannibal Lecter" style injuries. "The attack was really, really horrific." - Alderman Brian WingateWinfrey has been in a medically induced coma since the attack. On Monday, doctors removed her from life support. Doctors previously stated they did not know if she would survive and that her injuries were even worse than what Charla Nash suffered after being attacked by a chimpanzee. Police have consistently stated that both dogs involved in Winfrey's attack are pit bulls. However, Animal Control Officer Joseph Manganiello said the dogs are likely "American bulldog-mixes."
Dr. Hamilton Hicks, who is in residency at the Yale School of Medicine for psychiatry, was charged with a misdemeanor for possession of crack cocaine after the horrific attack. Hicks earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from Harvard University then attended medical school at the University of Miami in Miami-Dade County. That is where Hicks acquired the dogs, according to Manganiello, a county with a longstanding pit bull ban that refuses to recognize pit bull-mixes.
Five people have been killed by variances of Miami-Dade's "breed labeling game," primarily American bulldog-mixes, since August 2014.Manganiello also refused to allow any New Haven news reporters to view or photograph the dogs while they are under quarantine. When asked why the dogs butchered Winfrey and attacked their owner, Manganiello said, "I would believe they were protecting their own property.” It has already been reported that Winfrey was familiar with the dogs. These Miami-Dade County "American bulldog-mixes" attacked their Ivy League owner too. Hicks surrendered both dogs for euthanasia.
Doctor Walks Away Scot-Free
In Connecticut, as in many states, unless there is evidence that at least one of the dogs had been adjudicated as dangerous previously, there will be no criminal charges. The deadly pit "bulldog" mauling of Winfrey that occurred on the dog owner's property falls under the loathed loophole we refer to as, Defeated Prosecutor Syndrome. In other words, Dr. Hicks has zero culpability in her death and can acquire new pit bulls or Miami-Dade County "American bulldog-mixes" at any time.
06/23/16: Mauling Victim Identified
The victim has been identified as Jocelyn Winfrey, 53-years old, who remains in a medically induced coma in "extremely grave" condition after two pit bulls brutally attacked her Monday. Winfrey has lost both of her eyes, her right leg and may suffer an arm amputation as well. Doctors do not know if she will survive. Doctors previously stated that Winfrey's traumatic pit bull injuries are even worse than what Charla Nash endured after being attacked by a chimpanzee in 2009.
Winfrey was familiar with Hicks' two dogs. She also recently posted a photo to her Facebook page posing with her own pit bull, named Butter.Police have arrested the owner of the dogs, Dr. Hamilton Hicks, 3-days after the vicious attack on charges of misdemeanor possession of crack cocaine. Hicks is currently in residency at the Yale School of Medicine for psychiatry. Hicks earned his psychology degree from Harvard University in 2001 then attended the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Police say they could add additional charges related to the violent pit bull mauling, especially if Winfrey dies.
06/22/16: Drug Possession Charge
The New Haven Independent reports that police have charged the 37-year old Harvard-trained doctor who owns the attacking dogs with illegally possessing crack cocaine at the time of the vicious mauling. The horrific pit bull attack, described by a witness as "Hannibal Lecter" style, occurred Monday night in the yard of a New Haven home. The doctor and a female friend had returned to his home and entered into his fenced-in yard when his pit bulls violently attacked her.
“All the flesh was ripped away from her calf. The artery was just hanging there,” another witness recalled, still shaken days later. “Half of her face was basically bitten off. She looked like she was dead. She had to lose two gallons of blood, easy. The front sidewalk in front of the house was covered with blood.” - New Haven IndependentThe female victim, identified only as Jocelyn, suffered the loss of both eyes, her right leg and doctors are trying to save one of her arms, according to Assistant Police Chief Anthony Campbell. "She lost both eyes. She has severe facial injuries. She’s in extremely critical condition," Campbell said Wednesday. Campbell also said that doctors are calling her injuries even worse than the ghastly chimpanzee attack of Charla Nash in 2009, who later underwent a full face transplant.
06/22/16: Horrific Pit Bull Attack
New Haven, CT - Last night we became aware of a horrific pit bull mauling at a large home on Ella Grasso Boulevard in New Haven. The owner of the two pit bulls, identified as Hamilton Hicks, entered his fenced-in property with a female friend. As soon as the two were inside, his dogs viciously attacked her. When Hicks intervened, his pit bulls attacked him as well. New Haven Alderman, Brian Wingate, is a neighbor of Hicks and described what he saw in media interviews.
My understanding is that she was a friend -- friends don't let friends get eaten up by their dogs. When I say, "I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life"...Hicks is currently in residency at Yale School of Medicine. By today, Hicks had removed his Facebook profile. According to other online profiles, Hicks graduated from Harvard in 2001, attended the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine then began a residency in psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. The primary teaching hospital for the school is Yale-New Haven Hospital, where both victims were transported after the "Hannibal Lecter" style attack.
It plays in my head, to be honest with you. Her thighs, her ankles, her arms, part of her face, her ears, were honestly mauled. I could see the bones on her body, in reference to her thighs, her legs, her ankles and her face. It was so bloody, along with mud from the dog prints. Also the owner was muddy from the dog prints ... It was unbelievable...
I've never seen nothing like this. I have only seen this on Hannibal Lecter, in the movies. This was really, really horrific. - Alderman Brian Wingate
The two dogs are described as a pit bull and American bulldog. Media and neighbors captured grainy photos of one of the dogs last night.It is unknown if the woman, named Jocelyn, will survive. On the way to Yale-New Haven Hospital last night, she "coded twice" en route -- she underwent cardiac arrest twice. One commenter (gram14) on the New Haven Independent article last night stated in part, "This young woman lost both her ears, one eye (possibly the other) extreme facial, neck and throat injuries and severe extremity injuries. Due to throat injuries she was not able to be intubated when she coded twice."
Hamilton Hicks has no excuses for his ownership of pit bulls, a dog breed that kills more people than all breeds combined. He has no excuses for not having access to the many medical studies about the horrific nature of pit bull injuries, some studies compare them to shark attack injuries. Hicks has no excuses for not knowing (or caring about) the purpose-bred history of the breed: bull-baiting and dogfighting. The poor choices by Hicks have cost this woman the rest of her life.
Like most pit bull owners, Hicks could not stop his dogs while they viciously mauled Jocelyn leaving her unrecognizable and nearly dead. Hicks, who was in residency to help individuals with psychiatric disorders, frankly needs his own head examined. Recall the types of people who typically own pit bulls. The Independent is now running a vote on whether to ban pit bulls. This is a moot point. Connecticut passed a preemption bill in 2013 that bars cities from regulating pit bulls.
More news video footage with Alderman Brian Wingate: Eyewitness News | Fox News 61
12/30/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Visiting Child Killed by Pit Bull-Type Dog in Miami-Dade...
04/20/15: 2015 First Quarter Report: Municipalities Beat Back State Preemption Bills...
06/24/15: Anchorage Pit Bull Attack: The Mechanics of a "Classic" Unprovoked Pit Bull Attack
06/24/14: Nonprofits Urge CDC to Resume Tracking Richer Data Set for Children and...
05/05/09: Alexandra Semyonova: Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog
Friday, June 24, 2016
Erin McCleskey, 36, was killed by a pack of dogs in northeast Travis County.
Judge Orders Euthanasia
UPDATE 06/24/16: On June 15, Erin McCleskey, 36-years old, attempted to serve court papers to a home on Fay Street in northeast Travis County. She exited her vehicle, leaving it running, and opened a gate that led onto the property. As soon as she entered, a pack of dogs on the property mauled her to death. Sarah Scott, the chief administrator for the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, said that her body was found after a neighbor investigated her car by the unlatched gate.
"A neighbor reported a vehicle was running and parked in front of the gate ... This led the neighbor to check out the yard." - Sarah ScottAuthorities impounded six adult dogs, described as four labrador-mixes and two Australian cattle dog-mixes. 14 puppies were also located on the property. The dogs' owners were not present when the fatal attack occurred. On June 24, a Travis County justice of the peace ordered all six adult dogs to be euthanized after hearing testimony about the numerous bite injuries the dogs inflicted. After the ruling, the dogs' primary owner, Terry Swanson, vowed to appeal the decision.
Swanson and his uncle, Robert McCray, and McCray’s wife, Marjorie Kalinec, have been the primary caretakers of the dogs. McCray is the person who discovered McCleskey's body. The dogs' owners blamed the victim for her own violent mauling death during the hearing, saying that McCleskey failed to heed the property's no trespassing sign. Justice Herb Evans, however, had the final word, noting: “She didn’t deserve to die, and these animals don’t have a license to kill."
"We’re victims. This never would have happened had she listened to the signs. … I feel like I’ve been violated." - Marjorie Kalinec, caretaker of the dogsAssistant County Attorney Annalynn Cox, who argued on behalf of the county to have the dogs euthanized, "expressed indignation" by the lack of any remorse shown by the dogs' owners for her death, reports the Austin American-Statesman. We will add to this extreme narcissism, a total lack of empathy and antisocial deviance, the building blocks of a sociopath.1 Studies show these traits are often seen in owners of vicious dogs. We see them all the time after a fatal dog attack.
06/16/16: Woman Found Dead
Manor, TX - On Wednesday, deputies were dispatched to the 12300 block of Fay Street in response to a 911 call made by a caretaker who had come to the property to feed dogs, according to a news release issued by the Travis County Sheriff's Office. Deputies arrived about 9:00 pm and found a woman dead that had been attacked by a pack of dogs. Authorities identified the victim as Erin McCleskey, 36-years old, of Austin. The location of the attack is northeast of Austin.
A medical examiner later determined McCleskey had been dead for at least five hours before being discovered by anyone. - KXAN News"It appears Erin McCleskey was visiting the residence on a business related matter and entered the front gate of the property where she was attacked by the animals," states the release. Her body was transported to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office where an investigation into the cause of death has begun. Authorities impounded six adult dogs that were loose on the property. Officers also located 14 puppies that were confined on the property, states the release.
Evening News Updates
The Austin American Statesman reports that McCleskey was a process server who visited the property on Fay Street yesterday to serve civil papers. Sheriff’s office spokesman Roger Wade said the 20 dogs -- six adults and 14 puppies -- belonged to Terry Swanson who has been away for the past month and had left a caretaker in charge of feeding his dogs. About 9:00 pm last night, the caretaker arrived on the property and found McCleskey's dead body near the front gate.
The Statesman spoke to Casey Cox, the chief operating officer of EZ Messenger. McCleskey was an independent contractor and was serving papers for his company that day, Cox said. She is also the daughter of his business partner, Michael Shapiro, and lived with her parents, Cox said, "so it’s definitely hit home for us." The Statesman tried calling Donald Swanson, who is listed on records as the owner of the property, along with Terry Swanson, but their numbers were disconnected.
Our hearts go out to McCleskey's family and friends. She died alone in a vicious pack attack that apparently began after she opened the gate.The adult dogs are described as labrador-great pyrenees mixes and two husky-Australian cattle dog mixes, according to the news release. They are being held in quarantine. It's unknown where the Swansons are currently. Interestingly, KXAN reports that despite 20 dogs being on the property, the sheriff's office told them, "they do not believe this was a breeding situation." It is unclear what else one would call six dogs and 14 puppies penned separately in an outdoor area.
Texas Dog Bite Victims' Advocacy - Join our Texas email list to stay informed
06/12/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Dies After Vicious Dog Mauling in Southern Dallas
05/19/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Man Mauled to Death by Pack of Dogs in Miami-Dade County
03/25/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Elderly Woman Dies After Violent Dog Attack In Thurston County
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Cities in Province of Quebec Move to Adopt Breed-Specific Bylaws After Pit Bull Horrifically Kills Woman
Quebec Provincial Officials Signal Similar Pursuit
Medical responders on June 8 seen removing the body of Christiane Vadnais.
Montreal Seeks Ban
Montreal, CA - On June 8, Montreal city officials, media members and the public recoiled in horror after a 55-year old woman was savagely killed by a neighbor's pit bull while in her own backyard. The nightmarish unprovoked attack that left Christiane Vadnais dead and first responders shaken to their core, occurred in Pointe-aux-Trembles, one of Montreal's 19 boroughs. Since this time, the cities of Quebec, Brossard and Montreal have announced their intentions to adopt a pit bull ban.
Quebec provincial officials have also announced their intention of a adopting a breed-specific bylaw province-wide by the end of this year.The deadly attack of Christiane came just a few weeks after an investigation by La Presse showed that pit bulls were the primary offenders in serious attacks, causing the debate about dangerous dogs in Montreal to intensify. The end result was to establish a uniform set of rules for dangerous dogs across all 19 boroughs in Montreal by 2018. A breed-specific bylaw had not been ruled out at that time. Now in the wake of Christiane's death, city officials are resoundingly favoring a ban.
Humane groups in Montreal fired back with the same staggering deceptions and obfuscations about pit bulls as they do in the United States. Except that in many cities across the province of Quebec, no one is listening anymore. The horrific death of Christiane and preventing future deaths like hers outweighs the rights of a fringe group of dog owners -- pit bull owners. There are over 300 other dog breeds far more adapted to life in society today; so chose one is the prevailing logic.
Witnessing Historic Event Unfold
As the second most populace province in Canada turns its weight toward a breed-specific pit bull ban, second only to the province of Ontario, which has banned pit bulls since 2005, Americans are witnessing an historic event unfold. Canadian officials in Quebec are responding to the public outcry by placing the safety of their citizens first and foremost and also pointing to the excellent results Ontario achieved after adopting its ban; vicious attacks by pit bulls dropped dramatically.
The year before the Ontario ban went into effect, 2004, there were 168 pit bull bites in it's largest city of Toronto, by 2013 there were only 13.1What is happening in the province of Quebec right now is a stunning contrast to the U.S., where many politicians -- and major media outlets too -- slink under tables at the very utterance of breed-specific legislation due to fear of being attacked by pit bull advocates. Even the CDC, our nation's "health protection agency," is not brave enough to take a stance in this area for American children. At least in parts of Canada, this sobering chart of U.S. fatal pit bull attacks is wholly unacceptable.
The chart is wholly unacceptable to DogsBite.org and our many dedicated supporters as well. We issued this chart last year when investigating the history of state preemption laws in the U.S. that bar local governments from enacting pit bull laws. The death chart shows that CDC abandoned this issue in 1998. Since that time, there has been a 560% increase in human deaths inflicted by pit bulls. The "American scene" of fatal pit bull attacks stands as a grave warning to all countries.
FACT: Across the world, over 40 countries -- or parts within these countries -- regulate pit bull terriers. It does not matter the country or the continent. Wherever this breed appears, it maims and kills people disproportionately. These countries include, but are not limited to: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bavaria, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guyana, Honduras, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Lativa, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Singapore, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, Switzlerland, Turkey, Turks & Caicos Islands, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, United States and Venezuela.
01/25/16: Pit Bulls Lead 'Bite' Counts Across U.S. Cities and Counties
09/01/15: Cities with Successful Pit Bull Laws; Data Shows Breed-Specific Laws Work
08/31/15: Who Can Identify a Pit Bull? A Dog Owner of 'Ordinary Intelligence' Say the High Courts
06/24/15: Anchorage Pit Bull Attack: The Mechanics of a 'Classic' Unprovoked Pit Bull Attack
04/20/15: 2015 First Quarter Report: Municipalities and Grassroots Beat Back State Preemption...
Sunday, June 12, 2016
South Dallas home with a history of complaints where the fatally attacking dogs resided.
City Releases Report
UPDATE 06/12/16: Since the brutal dog mauling of Antoinette Brown in South Dallas on May 2, new developments have occurred. On June 10, the city released a memorandum -- Review and Findings for Animal Attack on May 2, 2016 -- summarizing the 911 and 311 incidents involving the dog owner's home in the years leading up to the deadly attack. The memo also outlines the sequence of events on May 2 and the days following, until all of the owner's dogs are seized.
The memorandum shows that some of the communication breakdowns between the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Animal Services (DAS) are daunting in scope. The memo also identifies where the breakdowns occurred and "opportunities" to correct them (see bold type). Just reading the first half of page 2 is halting. The number of animal violations and surrenders at 3307 Spring Avenue should have been identified as a "chronic pattern" and acted upon forcibly far earlier.
The owner of the dogs that killed Brown, Maria Cardoso of 3307 Spring Avenue, is a habitual loose and aggressive dog violator and appears to be a backyard breeder as well. From July 2013 through September 2015, Cardoso surrendered 21 dogs to DAS (some dogs could have been surrendered more than once, 12 were also listed as "puppies" when surrendered). An incident report from as early as January 16, 2014, notes the Cardoso home as a "chronic problem."
City Releases Incident Reports
The city did not only release the memorandum, but also a 74 page document that includes the related 911 and 311 incident reports involving 3307 Spring Avenue and Cardoso's dogs during the same 3-year period. The bulk of the calls involve reports of loose aggressive pit bulls. By 2015, rottweiler(s) begin appearing in the reports as well. Certainly Cardoso had every intention of continuing to own dangerous dog breeds. Citations show that none were spay or neutered either.
On page 33, the May 2 attack of Brown begins. The initial narrative states that she was "attacked by approximately 4 to 5 dogs including 2 pit bulls. The dogs caused serious bodily injury to the comp's right arm, tearing away the back of her upper arm to the bone, and to her right leg, which was missing a large chunk of her upper thigh/buttocks area." When responders arrived, no dogs were present, states the report. Transcripts of the 911 calls are also included in the document.
Digging into the accounts, it becomes clearer that Cardoso was likely crossing the pit bulls and rottweilers. Recall that no dogs were seized until 4 days after the deadly May 2 attack -- so there is confusion and multiple 911 calls placed by neighbors following Brown's attack, these 911 calls begin on May 4 at 3:46 am (page 50). Some callers identify the three brown and black aggressive dogs as rottweilers, other callers as pit bulls and other callers as a combination of the two.
On May 4, a police officer responded to a 911 call of three pit bulls attacking a man at Rutledge and Trunk Avenue (page 52) -- the same location where Brown was attacked. Officer Sanchez arrived on scene and saw the pit bulls; he notes they are the same dogs that attacked Brown. At 4:06 am, Sanchez calls 311 to relay this information. He also tells dispatch about the earlier attack on Brown as if DAS is unaware of it, and they were unaware of it. DAS is in the dark until May 5.
Officer Sanchez: "Well, these dogs, I don’t know if you heard about this but, about two nights ago, the night that it was raining, they attacked a lady and literally they almost killed her. And the bicep was missing, chunks, and I’m going uh, I’ve seen a lot of dog bites, but these...I’ve never seen anything like this. She looked like she was attacked by a shark. There’s chunks of meat that were off. I mean like her left leg, we had her, she had to be transported to Baylor hospital and she was in a state of shock. I...(unintelligible) I don’t even know if she made it. This, this is the type that’s that bad." - Officer Sanchez, 311 call, May 4, 2016 4:06 a.m.The Breeds of Dogs Seized
On May 6, when DAS seized six dogs belonging to Cardoso, page 72 shows the involved breeds crammed into a tiny area of a citation for failing to spay or neuter: shepherd-mix, male (black and brown), doberman-mix, female (black and brown), pit bull-mix, male (black), pit bull-mix, male (black and brown), rottweiler-mix, male (black and brown) and pit bull, female (brown and white). On May 7, DAS writes a citation for a seventh dog owned by Cardoso, a brown female pit bull-mix.
What is also known about the attacking dogs to date, thanks to the June 10 update by Dallas Morning News columnist Sharon Grigsby, is that the dogs were quarantined for 10 days, assessed unadoptable and euthanized. The DNA tests are still being analyzed at the Southwest Institute of Forensics Science. Results were anticipated to take about eight weeks, so we expect news in July. When results are complete police will determine if a criminal case can be made against Cardoso.
05/26/16: Family Demands $5 Million
The family of Antoinette Brown is demanding $5 million dollars from the city of Dallas to avoid a lawsuit, interim City Attorney Chris Bowers said today. Bowers, however, does not believe the city is liable due to government immunity. Antoinette was savagely killed by a pack of loose dogs in South Dallas earlier this month. Dallas Animal Services (DAS) had paid multiple visits to the home where the dogs resided for violations, and since 2014, had confiscated 20 dogs from the home.
"Brown’s death was very tragic, very unfortunate, very regrettable and very sad. [But] we do not believe the city has any liability here." - Chris BowersDallas city officials also recently hatched a plan to hire the Boston Consulting Group to conduct an 11-week study examining how the city can best resolve the longstanding loose dog problem in the southern sector. The study has been funded by a group of private donors. City Council member Tiffinni Young, whose district includes South Dallas, has already sent city leaders eight sensible strategies, but apparently they are being ignored in favor of hiring the private consulting firm.
Also, we recently learned in quite an unusual way that pit bulls were involved in this deadly attack.
05/16/16: Calls for Dismissal
After a woman was mauled to death by a pack of loose dogs in South Dallas, fierce discussions continue to brew about the many protocols that either broke down or did not exist at all. The catastrophic injury attack that caused the death of Antoinette Brown, 52, occurred in the early morning of May 2. Dallas Animal Services was not made aware of the attack until 3-days later; the dogs were seized 4-days after the attack. Dallas police did not confirm the attack for 5-days.
The owners have made 20 dog "surrenders" to DAS since 2014, that includes the 7 dogs surrendered after the fatal attack of Antoinette.The Dallas Morning News has come down hard on Jody Jones, the chief of Dallas Animal Services (DAS), calling for her dismissal. When interviewed about the brutal dog mauling death, Jones replied, "I hate to say it, but people die in traffic fatalities every day." Her reply shows that she has no compassion for victims of deadly dog attacks, no priority for victims of dog attacks and little priority for public safety. Yet, she runs a department assigned with those very responsibilities.
The News also pointed out how DAS misleadingly responded after City Manager A.C. Gonzalez announced that Deputy Police Chief Rob Sherwin had been assigned to help oversee Jones' troubled department: "So how did Dallas Animal Services respond?," states the editorial. "With a chirpy email blast and social media message that read: 'Exciting news!!! The City Manager, DPD and PAS partner together on a new venture to strengthen services and communication.'"
We agree with The News, but we agree with commenter Mike Lima more. The blame must be spread out to more city departments -- along with The News -- who fail to admit that "animal-welfare psychos" are a huge part of the problem. Lima points out quite succinctly that Antoinette's death is the "result of political expediency due to fear of the animal welfare community, which sure as the sky is blue would be all over the City of Dallas if euthanasia rates start going up."
Lima nails the issue, and why animal control is a zero-sum game in today's "no kill" climate.
Failing Dog Attack Victims
When animal service departments are fixated on the "live release" rate, most commonly seen in No-Kill cities, such as Austin, the priority of public safety takes a nosedive. These results can appear in different areas, including a rise in dog bites, a rise in loose and aggressive dogs and failing dog bite victims. All of which run counter to the priorities of a well-functioning animal control department. The "live release" numbers fixation can also lead to adopting out dangerous dogs.
One Dallas mauling victim, Nancy Lewis, recently shared her story. DAS never contacted her after she was attacked in September 2014. Then 1.5-years later, a few weeks before Antoinette's death, DAS called her because they are now investigating another attack involving the same dogs. During the call, DAS dropped the "bombshell" that one of the dogs had severely bitten a woman in 2012. Lewis never had this information, which is make or break in the One Bite state of Texas.
Along with the many other protocol breakdowns, DAS' failure to supply a dog attack victim with a bite report indeed indicates systemic problems.It's been 20 months since she was attacked and Lewis still has been unable to obtain her bite report from DAS. Under the open records act, she was provided a single page; it is a brief EMS Firefighter report that references the date, location, that the status became "closed" after 18-hours and a few other details. It is not a bite report; it is an EMS Firefighter reference to the attack. How many other victims has DAS failed to provide a bite report to, which is vital for civil a lawsuit?
We are in contact with Lewis and will keep you posted as that protocol violation unfolds.
05/10/16: Cyclical Complaints
The household and dogs involved in the brutal mauling death of Antoinette Brown had a long history of complaints with Dallas Animal Services. In fact, the history is extremely disturbing, but no more disturbing than the "vicious dog loop" that plagues most jurisdictions. The dogs' owners are cyclical, repeat offenders. They are the very type of grossly irresponsible dog owners -- about 2% of all dog owners -- that the system is allegedly supposed to catch, but often does not.
The Dallas Police Department issued an update explaining this extensive history. Since 2014, the owners have made 20 dog surrenders after violations and attacks. At least 3 have resulted in euthanasia, another 7 will too after this investigation. What is true about the "vicious dog loop" -- after the dog is declared vicious and put down, the owner gets a new one and repeats the whole process -- is usually true with animal neglect offenses too. There are no laws in place to stop it.
On May 5, 2016, Dallas Animal Services reviewed the address and found previous 311 calls regarding loose dogs complaints. Seven dogs were found living at the location and Dallas Animal Services was able to take 6 dogs into possession on May 6, 2016. The seventh dog was located on May 9, 2016 and quarantined. Between July 2013 and August 2014, records indicate residents made 10 calls regarding this location. In 2014, the owner surrendered ten dogs after repeated visits and violation notices from Dallas Animal Services. In September 2015, neighbors reported an attack in progress, resulting in five citations being issued and surrendering of three more dogs that were subsequently euthanized. Dallas Animal Services issued an additional 16 citations on May 6, 2016.For readers who are not used to seeing this part of the broken system, it is a pretty common reality. If your next question is: Why can't we sue animal control departments in these cases? Then we direct you to: The Plight of a Mauled Postal Carrier, an Attempt to Sue Animal Control and the Progression of a Criminal. This blog post dives deep into the governmental immunity issue, a legal concept that one needs a grasp of when considering this lawsuit question.
The owners gave permission on May 6, 2016 for Dallas Animal Services to take custody of the animals. These dogs were processed for evidence to confirm whether they were involved in the attack on Ms. Brown. Dallas Police have submitted the evidence to Southwest Institute of Forensics Science1 and are awaiting the results of testing. - Dallas Police Department
Texas Felony Dog Attack Law
The Dallas Police blog post also indicates that they plan to pursue these owners under the Texas felony dog attack statute, also referred to as Lillian's Law. This may be the first time Dallas County authorities have pursued under the statute. In 2014, we saw Harris County (Houston) prosecutors finally embrace it for the first time. Comal County prosecutors did too after a fatal pit bull mauling. Texas case law continues to build as more and more cases are successfully prosecuted under it.
Given the history of these owners and their aggressive dogs, it seems Dallas County prosecutors can build a solid case against them. The dogs suspected of killing Antoinette are currently being DNA tested to see if it matches DNA found on the victim. Obvious blood evidence was long gone by the time the dogs were seized by authorities 4-days later. That is a serious time gap. Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez addresses this in a letter published by NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.
I’ve been meeting with Dallas Police Department (DPD) and Dallas Animal Services (DAS) leadership to review this situation. We have identified several communication gaps as the events of the last week unfolded. DPD did not immediately notify DAS about the attack, which is why DAS responded over the next few days to subsequent calls for loose dogs as routine calls.Read the city manager's letter in full | View timeline of "gaps"
After DPD informed DAS managers about the attack Thursday evening, the two departments coordinated a response for Friday morning, at which time the suspected dogs were taken into custody, where they remain. In addition, we did not properly identify a pattern of behavior that was developing and would have given us an opportunity to bring DPD into the loop sooner to investigate for criminal activity. We are fixing these gaps by changing procedures so that first responders arriving to the scene of a dog attack will immediately notify DAS. Technology changes are also in process to further help with this communication. - Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez
05/09/16: Son Confirms Death
A woman savagely attacked by a pack of dogs in southern Dallas last Monday has died. NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth reports the son of 52-year-old Antoinette Brown, Laquan, confirmed her death to them. Earlier today, the son said the family would be ending life support this afternoon. The victim's daughter, Matisha Ward, shared news of her mother's death with Dallas City Council member Tiffinni Young. "She went down fighting ... She is in a better place," Ward told Young.
The city has been struggling with a loose and stray dog problem for years. In October, the city began a new initiative to tackle it. Unfortunately, these efforts were not enough to prevent a savage pack attack that resulted in a woman's death. Dallas city leaders have promised a new approach to the problem. "The priority has not been high enough, ok, obviously," Mayor Mike Rawlings said. "Progress is great, but we were in a deep hole and we have a long way to go."
05/09/16: Mauling Victim Clings to Life
Dallas, TX - On Saturday, The Dallas Morning News reported that 52-year old Antoinette Brown was brutally attacked by a pack of dogs in the 3300 block of Rutledge Street, a southern Dallas neighborhood. She was bitten over 100 times and placed into a medically induced coma. The attack occurred Monday morning. Police did not confirm this until 5-days later. Police Chief David Brown Tweeted the delay was due to capturing the dogs before the owner could get rid of them.
“They ate her like they was eating a steak.” - Barbara Brown, the victim's motherThere was more to the Tweet exchange between Police Chief Brown and The News reporters as well. See the full exchange here. Chief Brown fired back at both reporters, "Question for you...why was it necessary to include the victims criminal history in the article?" By the time DogsBite.org read the article, The News had removed this language. Thank goodness for editors. Antoinette is horrifically injured -- degloving injuries and worse. Her family does not know if she will survive.
"Bandages cover the places where the dogs peeled off her skin, exposing muscle and tendons. A doctor told her family that he stopped counting at 100 bite wounds," states The News. Antoinette is currently hospitalized at Baylor Medical University Center at Dallas. Her mother, Barbara Brown, told The News that her daughter's medical condition is fragile and currently in limbo. “We’re in a box,” Barbara said. “We can’t go forward and we can’t go backwards and we can’t go sideways."
Loose Dog Problem
Since 2014, the loose and stray dog problem in southern Dallas has been a growing concern. In October 2015, the city began increasing patrols in targeted neighborhoods to combat this problem. The initiative was set to run through March 2016, and by that time, Dallas Animal Services (DAS) would have hired an additional 49 officers to help rein in the problem. By April 25, 2016 the program was running at full tilt -- just 3-weeks before Antoinette was nearly mauled to death.
Metrics released on April 25 showed a significant improvement. By adopting community policing and hot-spot policing tactics -- primarily in the southeastern neighborhoods -- citations for loose dogs had risen higher than any previous fiscal year. Also by this time, DAS had started to broaden out from the targeted hot-spot areas to reach more southern neighborhoods affected by the loose and stray dog problem. Despite the city's commitment, a catastrophic injury pack attack occurred.
The latest developments include Chief Brown's indication the dogs' owner could face possible criminal charges. Police have not released breed information. The six suspected dogs were captured by DAS on Friday. WFAA reported Sunday that DAS went door-to-door on Mother's Day and set up new traps for "true" stray dogs. As Esteban Rodriguez with Dallas Animal Services states, "the majority of these dogs are owned and people just have to become responsible."
On Monday, Antoinette's son told NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth they will be taking her off life support.
Texas Dog Bite Victims' Advocacy - Join our Texas email list to stay informed
05/09/16: Will Someone Have to Die Before Dallas City Hall Gets Serious - Dallas Morning News
05/09/16: Overview: Dallas Struggles with a Sea of Stray Dogs - Dallas Morning News
05/20/14: The Plight of a Mauled Postal Carrier, an Attempt to Sue Animal Control and...
08/29/13: East Texas Woman Severely Mauled by Pit Bull at 'Dog Friendly' Private RV Park
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Fatal Pit Bull Attack in Penobscot County, Maine
Hunter Bragg, 7, was killed by a pit bull while visiting the dog owner's home in Corinna.
Bite Report Obtained
UPDATE 06/11/16: The Morning Sentinel obtained the dog bite report. Information in the report verifies all that we have written about since this fatality was first reported and more. The dog's name is indeed "Koda," as stated on the bite report, and is described as a brindle and white male pit bull, specifically as a "brindle with white face." The age of the dog is 1.5 years old, states the bite report. The dog we originally posted on June 5 along side Amber's comments is the killer.
The bite report contains additional information, including that the dog fatally bit Hunter in the throat, the boy had been left unattended at the time, and that Koda had previously "attacked [Amber's] other dog several times." The Sentinel also interviewed animal control officer Charles Gould who said the pit bull was chained in the yard when he arrived on scene. Gould said there were adults in the yard at the time of the attack, but he was unsure if they witnessed the attack.
Intrafamily Backyard Pit Bull Breeding Operation
To help readers navigate this "complex" case, we created a chronology of the screenshots captured while researching the pit bull involved in the mauling death of Hunter Bragg. What we discovered while researching was a classic intrafamily backyard pit bull breeding operation. In this case, there is also a strong possibility that the litter that produced Koda in October 2014 also bore two pit bulls that were legally declared vicious before the age of 1. Genetics is real and it matters.
In 2013, two bullmastiff-pit bull mix littermates killed two different people less than 10 miles apart within a 5-month period in Central Arkansas.1In the chronology, we call to attention the widespread false and dangerous belief that dog aggression never translates into human aggression. Koda did not only have aggression toward male dogs when smelling a female in heat (the classic reason to neuter male dogs). Koda had breed-specific aggression, which is why Bandit was killed. Interdog aggression, generally, means aggression toward dogs, not killing another dog, which pit bulls were purpose-bred to do.
- Oct. 13, 2014 - Amber's mother Stacey shows her the new puppy that is later named "Koda." Danielle, who is Stacey's half sister, also tells Amber, "Stacey pups are perfect for you." Stacey's Facebook page had many litters dating back years.
- Oct. 13, 2014 - Amber is also shown backside. Some of the main players have just been introduced. Danielle, a pit bull owner and breeder, is part of this intrafamily pit bull breeding operation. One of her dogs/offspring was possibly part of this breeding.
- Nov. 16, 2014 - Stacey posts a status update about her female pit bull, Star, that broke free of its chain. The family laughs at this behavior. Stacey adds: "Ya our male pit has broken a lot of chains... we finally had to buy a tow cable. Haha."
- Nov. 17, 2014 - Amber posts a photo of her pit bull puppy, Koda, that is a week away from being released by the intrafamily breeders. Amber states, "Koda bout 1 more week cant wait" [sic] then tags her husband. Koda is likely 7-weeks old now.
- Aug. 13, 2015 - Photo showing Koda at less than 1 year old. That's a large pit bull for this age. Danielle specializes in breeding larger pit bulls. In one comment she writes that Koda "looks like his momma" -- which implies one of her own stock.
- Aug. 24, 2015 - Amber's brother Andrew posts three updates after his two pit bulls are declared vicious by the Village of Morrisville, Vermont. His dogs likely came from the October litter too, making them less than a year old and already gaining a vicious designation. So far, potentially, there is one killer and two vicious dogs from the same litter. Anti-social attitudes and denial of responsibility stand out as well, particularly by aunt Danielle who replies, "want aunti and Lokie to come show 'em what a mean motherfuckin dog looks like?" [sic] They are proud of their aggressive pit bulls.
- Sep. 17 2015 - Amber posts about Koda attacking her beagle, named Bandit. It takes a baseball bat to break up the fight and requires a $353 vet bill. She admits that Koda has already been bred once before the age of 1 year old and that his aggression began earlier. "He used to do it before he even had sex," she states.
- Nov. 18, 2015 - Photo showing Koda just over 1 year old. This is one month after the nonfatal attack on Bandit and a month before Bandit is killed. We also provided this in the chronology because it is the main image that we point to for Koda.
- Dec. 26, 2015 - On Christmas Day, Bandit is killed. Amber posts, "I lost a special part of my life last night … I love you to pieces Bandit baby." She does not explain how and asks friends to "PM me" in comments. We believe Koda was the culprit.
- Jan. 6, 2016 - Ten days later, Amber states that she is getting rid of Koda. "I can no longer keep him around I am proud of the good buy he has become (minus the bad side he does have)." This clearly regards his serious dog-aggression.
- Jan. 7, 2016 - The next day Amber posts a status update stating, "it breaks my heart to see how much can change in one year! RIP Bandit!" The Timehop photo shows all three of her dogs sitting on the couch together one year earlier.
- Feb. 5, 2016 - Koda is first seen (as an adult dog) on Stacey's page. Koda is next seen on March 25 in a wire crate kennel. Certainly by March 25, Koda has been returned to the Merchants. It is unknown if there were additional rehoming plans.
- Apr. 15, 2016 - On U.S. Tax Day, Stacey is seen selling pit bull puppies on her Facebook page. Stacey writes, "They for sale." When asked, "How much are you asking for?" Stacey replies: "200." Her husband Gary is seen as well.
- May 12, 2016 - Amber and her brother are "excited" as the buyer delivery date for this latest round of pit bull puppies gets closer. "Just can't wait," Andrew says (whose two other pit bulls were declared vicious). Amber says, "Me either!!!"
- May 21, 2016 - Amber shows off one of her two new pit bull puppies. On June 1, both are seen in her car, just three days before Hunter is killed by Koda. It must be expressed that Amber did not just want one new pit bull, she wanted two.
- Jun. 4, 2016 - While 7-year old Hunter Bragg is visiting the Merchant's home at 207 Moody's Mill Road in Corinna, Koda executes the killing bite. Koda attacks Hunter in the throat, killing him. It is unknown if the dog was chained at the time.
- Jun. 5, 2016 - Stacey posts about her guilt after Hunter's death. "The guilt that is building up inside" is heart wrenching, she writes in part. "I don't know how to say I am sorry to my entire family..." The next day, she privatizes her Facebook page.
- Jun. 5, 2016 - Another Bragg family member posts about the loss of Hunter to his public Facebook page. When asked in comments, "What happened?" He states: "Our cousin Stacey's dog attacked him." He adds the dog was a "pit bull."
- Jun. 5, 2016 - Amber posts about her guilt in a status update, "All I can do is feel guilt! Everything bad that has happened seems to have came back to me, wether it was nobodys fault I still feel responsible! I wish I could turn back time…" [sic]
- Jun. 5, 2016 - Amber starts publicly broadcasting on the WABI Facebook thread that she formerly owned the dog that killed Hunter and that she rehomed the pit bull-boxer mix because the dog "did not get along with other small male dogs."
06/09/16: More Information Released
Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton released new information about the pit bull involved in the mauling death of 7-year old Hunter Bragg on June 4. As suspected, the pit bull had originated from the Merchant home at 207 Moody's Mill Road and was recently returned to them for reasons Morton has still not released. "That is a major part of the investigation," Morton said. "Who returned it, when was it returned, where had it been and was there any issues while it was gone."
The Bangor Daily News reports that under state kennel rules, Gary Merchant's ownership of 8 dogs qualifies him as a kennel, but he is not required to register with the town. If more than one puppy is sold in less than a year’s time, Merchant would be required to register as a vendor, according to state law. Serena Bemis-Goodall, the town manager of Corinna, said Merchant does not have business license registered with the town and does not know if he is a dog breeder.
“A person may not advertise for sale, sell or exchange for value more than one cat or dog under the age of 6 months in a 12-month period unless that person has a valid animal shelter, kennel, breeding kennel or pet shop license or a valid vendor’s license." - See full state requirementsThe Morning Sentinel reports additional details. According to Animal Control Officer Charles Gould, the pit bull that killed Hunter was named Dakota -- the suspected dog, named "Koda," may be a shortened version of this name. Early on, a daughter of Merchant named Amber claimed it was her male, 1.5 year old pit bull that killed the boy in public Facebook comments. Amber's own Facebook page show's that Koda was part of an October 2014 litter from the Merchant family.
Sheriff Morton said that he would not provide any details about why the dog had recently been returned to Merchant after he had owned it previously, reports The Sentinel. Morton also would not comment on who else had owned the dog. "We do have some of those answers, but we’re not prepared to release them," Morton said. Other key information that has not been released is the color-type of the dog (another way to verify Koda) and if the dog was tethered when it attacked.
Key Tips Sent In By Reader
To summarize events so far, details about the dog that attacked and killed Hunter Bragg are generally lining up with Amber's claim of being the former owner of Koda and that he was the aggressor in the attack. Amber is the daughter of Stacey Merchant -- who is married to Gary Merchant (from this point forward, simply called "the Merchants"). Amber did return Koda to the Merchants after we believe the dog killed her beagle, named Bandit, on Christmas Day 2015.
A week later, Amber posted that she could no longer keep the dog. Koda begins appearing on the Merchants' Facebook page in early February.On Tuesday, a reader sent in tips that strengthen this scenario further. In September 2015, just a few months before Bandit was killed, Koda viciously attacked Bandit. The fight had to be broken up with a baseball bat and cost $353 in veterinarian bills. In the post, Amber admits that by the age of 1 year old, Koda had already had been bred once and that his dog aggression started even earlier. Amber's veterinarian knows about the September attack, possibly the Christmas one too.
The Sentinel is trying to obtain the bite report about the fatal dog attack that has been completed by animal control. The report includes the name, age and breed of the dog; the name of the victim; and a summary of the attack, along with other information such as whether the dog was up to date on shots and who its veterinarian was, accord to animal control. The last part is essential -- the veterinarian -- which should lead to the veterinarian records and answer critical questions.
As of this update, Amber has privatized her Facebook page. See more discussion in comments.
06/06/16: Child Identified by Sheriff
The 7-year old boy struck down by a pit bull has been identified as Hunter Bragg of Bangor. The adult male pit bull that killed him has been euthanized, Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton said at a news conference Monday afternoon. On Saturday, Hunter was playing in the yard with two other children at Gary Merchant's home at 207 Moody's Mill Road when the attack occurred. The child's father, Jason Bragg, and Merchant were at the residence at the time, Sheriff Morton said.
The pit bull belongs to the Merchant family. Town Manager Serena Bemis-Goodall said that Merchant has eight dogs on his property. All were registered except for the pit bull that killed Hunter. Bemis-Goodall told the Portland Press Herald, “My understanding is that (Merchant) took the dog in for someone else just within the last couple of months. It was not registered, otherwise we would have known about it.” Thus matching the account of the dog's previous owner.
The "breeders" from our earlier coverage are Gary and Stacey Merchant, husband and wife, who reside at 207 Moody's Mill Road.The Press Herald also reports that Patrick Faucher, the president of the board of directors of the Maine Animal Control Association, said that it has "probably been years" since a dog bite fatality occurred in Maine. However, the 2011 mauling death of 7-month old Annabelle Mitchell received extensive media coverage. The child's mother was also charged with a Class D misdemeanor for endangering the life of a child. Faucher apparently was unaware of this local fatal dog attack.
Sheriff Morton stated that additional details of the attack are "sensitive" and are not being released at this time. The incident remains an "active investigation," Sheriff Morton said. The Press Herald also spoke to Joshua Eldgridge, who grew up near the Merchant home. Eldgridge said the home has a number of dogs, including a pit bull that he has seen outside. Eldgridge said he heard there was a chance that another child at the home witnessed the attack, which deeply upset him.
If the dog had ever attacked before, or if it was tethered at the time, are being withheld pending the results of the investigation. - MPDN.net2The Bangor Daily News adds that in 2012 Hunter lost his mother. The boy's aunt, Jennifer Mcclure, set up a GoFundMe page to help Hunter's family with funeral expenses. She states on the page, "He was taken from everyone at such a young age, but we all know that his mom is now with him and looking after him up in Heaven." Bragg was a student at the Down East Community School in Bangor. School officials were notified of his death by the sheriff's office, Morton said.
Sheriff Morton said he did not know if Merchant was breeding pit bulls or even the relationship between Merchant and Bragg, reports the Daily News. He would not answer further questions about the investigation, including if the pit bull was part of any previous incidents involving law enforcement -- citing "this is a sensitive, complicated investigation." The breeding evidence, however, was clear on Stacey Merchant's Facebook page, which has since been privatized.
Of the screenshots we did take of Stacey's Facebook page -- our main focus was Koda, not the other litters posted to her page -- the last round of pit bull puppies by the Merchants was produced in late March or early April and ready for delivery in mid May. Amber Morin took two of these puppies, despite having "returned" Koda to them in January due to dog-aggression; the pit bull that would later kill Hunter. The household was not limited to the breeding of pit bulls either.3
06/05/16: Child Was Visiting
In an email Sunday evening to the Portland Press Herald, Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton said that more details will be released Monday. “I can appreciate the interest in this incident; however, it is a complex incident and we believe in providing accurate information,” Morton wrote. His answer came in response to questions from reporters about the dog's breed and the child's relationship to the dog. “We plan on putting out additional information tomorrow,” Morton wrote.
"He is not a student from our district. He was there visiting a student from our district (when the dog attacked him)." - Interim superintendent Raymond FreveRaymond Freve, interim superintendent of Regional School Unit 19, which includes the towns of Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport and several others, said Sunday evening the victim did not attend classes in his district. The student the 7-year old boy was visiting attends Corinna Elementary School, Freve said. Grief counselors will be available on Monday at the elementary school for students or staff members who might need to talk to them, reports the Press Herald.
06/05/16: Boy Dies in Dog Attack
Corinna, ME - On Saturday, deputies responded to a dog attack at a home on Moody's Mills Road in Corinna at 5:15 pm, states a release issued Saturday night by Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton. When deputies arrived at the scene, they found the 7-year old boy had died as a result of the attack. No one else was injured, and the dog was put down, states the release. Additional details were not provided, including the victim's name. An investigation into the attack is ongoing.
The Dog's Former Owner
Earlier today, on the WABI TV Facebook thread, the former owner of the suspected dog, Amber Morin, spoke freely. "Hey i can tell you right now that the dog was my dog before i rehomed it, i have a 2 year old boy and he never showed agression to any person, i will also inform you the boy he killed was my cousin!" [sic] she wrote. The dog is a brown and white pit bull-mix, named Koda. In January of this year, Amber gave the dog back to its breeders due to it being dog-aggressive.
Amber, the breeders and the boy appear to be related. The boy may have been visiting or staying at the breeders' home when the deadly attack occurred. The breeders' had a new round of pit bull puppies as recently as April. On a November 2014 post, they talk about how their dogs frequently break their chains. "Ya our male pit has broken a lot of chains...we finally had to buy a tow cable haha." [sic] Koda appears in Facebook photos on the breeders' page starting on February 5, 2016.
There were other dogs at the breeders' home, but given Amber's comments and open guilt, it seems likely that Koda was the attacker. Another family member also called the dog a pit bull and named the breeders, "Our cousin Stacy's dog attacked him." Amber's Facebook page shows many photos of Koda growing up with her son. Koda was 1.5 years old, when the breed reaches sexual maturity and aggression often first appears. However, Koda was already dog-aggressive.
Commenter Lisa pointed out the Freudian slip Amber made above: "most harmful big baby ever."
2Barbara Cariddi, "June 6: Dog Attack that Killed 7-Year-Old Boy Remains Under Investigation," Maine Public Broadcasting, June 6, 2016 (www.mpbc.net)
3There are/were multiple dog breeds in the Merchant household, each showing litters on Stacey's Facebook page. There was at least one kitten litter too. Our hearts go out to Hunter's family members and relatives. There is, however, an issue with animal breeding at the household of 207 Moody's Mill Road that should be addressed, since it is convincing clear at this stage that one of their "breedings" produced a pit bull that killed a boy. Whether authorities can require a kennel license or mandate that animals in that household be spay or neutered is unknown.
07/16/11: 2011 Dog Bite Fatality: Frankfort Girl Mauled to Death by Pet Rottweiler
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Criminal Trial: Detroit Pit Bull Owner Convicted on Two Counts of Manslaughter After His Dogs Brutally Killed a Young Boy
The Criminal Trial of Geneke Antonio Lyons
06/09/16: Convicted on Both Counts
Detroit, MI - Today a Wayne County jury convicted Geneke Lyons, 42, of manslaughter after his four pit bulls savagely killed a 4-year old boy in front of his mother last year. The jury returned a guilty verdict on two felony counts: involuntary manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death. Yesterday in court, Judge James Callahan threw out the second-degree murder charge, stating that prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence for the higher charge.1
"We are pleased with the jury verdict and are happy that they convicted the defendant on the highest charge after the judge dismissed the second-degree murder charge." - Wayne County Prosecutor Kym WorthyOn December 2, Xavier Strickland and his mother where walking near Lyons' home on Baylis Street when a pack of pit bulls escaped under Lyons' fence and "snatched" the boy from his mother's arms. The dogs dragged Xavier by the hood of his coat across the street, pulled him under the fence and into Lyons' backyard, where they mauled him to death. The horrific attack was captured on the defendant's surveillance cameras. Jurors saw 9 minutes of this graphic video.
Geneke Lyons was not remanded to jail; he is free on bond. Lyons will be sentenced on June 30.
06/09/16: Day 6 of Trial: Jury Deliberates
On the sixth day of the Detroit fatal pit bull mauling trial, defense gave its closing arguments. We received confirmation from WXYZ that the jury began deliberations shortly before noon. The jury will be considering two felony charges against Geneke Lyons in connection to the death of Xavier Strickland: involuntary manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death. Both are manslaughter charges. A conviction requires finding Lyons guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
As we wait for the jury to reach a verdict in this tragic case, we've gathered the last decade of verdicts in Michigan fatal dog mauling cases.During the 11-year period of 2005 to 2015, dogs attacked and killed 16 people in the state of Michigan. Felony charges were brought after 6 of those deaths; this includes the death of Xavier Strickland. This is a 37.5% rate of bringing felony charges after a fatal dog mauling. The national average during the same period was 18%. Michigan has a felony dog attack statute, which makes this possible. Many other states do not. Below is a summary of the outcomes of those cases.
Michigan Fatal Dog Mauling Verdicts
- 2015: After two cane corsos escaped their owner's property and killed Craig Systma, who was jogging near their home in Lapeer County, the dogs' owners were charged with second-degree murder. Sebastiano Quagliata, 46, and his wife, Valbona Lucaj, 45, reached a plea deal and both pleaded no contest to possessing a dangerous animal causing death. A judge sentenced each to just under 5 years in prison.
- 2012: After a 5-year old boy was killed by a wolf hybrid while under the care of his mother and her boyfriend, the pair pleaded guilty to multiple charges before a Wayne County court. Debbralyn Holland, 31, was sentenced to 2.5 years on charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree child abuse and accessory. Earl Adkins, 37, was sentenced to 2 years for possessing a dangerous animal causing death.
- 2008: After the double fatal mauling in Livingston County -- the owner's pack of American bulldogs escaped their property and killed two individuals -- Diane Cockrell was charged with two counts of possessing a dangerous animal causing death. Cockrell pleaded no contest to both charges after reaching a sentencing agreement with prosecution. Cockrell was ordered to serve a minimum of 3.5 years in jail.
- 2008: Two step-brothers were charged with involuntary manslaughter after a rottweiler they acquired 10 days earlier killed a 4-month old girl. Jason Winters, 23, pleaded no contest to attempted first-degree child abuse and was sentenced to 3 years probation. Christopher Fura, 21, eventually pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and was sentence to only 6-months in jail and 3 years probation.
06/08/16: Day 5 of Trial: Judge Tosses Murder Two
On the fifth day of the Detroit fatal pit bull mauling trial, Judge James Callahan threw out the second-degree murder charge, but left in place the other two felony charges. This comes as no surprise. The prosecution did not present sufficient evidence showing that Geneke Lyons knew his dogs had a history of escaping before the deadly attack. Prosecutors needed to show that Lyons had "wanton or willful" disregard to cause the death of Xavier to prove the Murder Two charge.
"[The defendant] must have intended for the dogs to be out. To be actively loose in the community. To have created this extremely dangerous hazard." - Wayne County Circuit Judge James CallahanClosing statements by prosecution were made today. Prosecution tried to nail down convictions on the two remaining felony charges, involuntary manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death charges. Prosecution argued that Lyons kept the pit bulls outside (these were not house dogs), and in the past, had intentionally left the dogs out to "guard his property." Sadly, we could not locate any reporters live Tweeting during prosecution's closing to provide more details.
Defense will deliver their closing arguments Thursday morning. Jury instructions and deliberation will follow. The remaining felony charges are involuntary manslaughter (also called criminally negligent manslaughter in Michigan) which involves showing recklessness or criminal negligence. The other charge, "possessing dangerous animals causing death," requires the dogs to meet the definition of a "dangerous animal." Both felonies carry a maximum sentence of up to 15 years.
06/07/16: Day 4 of Trial: Medical Examiner
Detroit, MI - On the fourth day of the Detroit fatal pit bull mauling trial, the jury heard testimony from the medical examiner about the boy's horrific injuries and autopsy findings. On December 2, Xavier Strickland, 4-years old, was savagely attacked by a pack of pit bulls belonging to Geneke Lyons while walking down a residential sidewalk with his mother. Lyons faces charges of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death.
Dr. Leigh Hlavaty, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for Wayne County discussed the autopsy findings during her testimony. “External examination indicate Xavier had extensive injuries - specifically there were 90 puncture wounds and at least 378 abrasions that were on the head, neck, torso, that were on the extremities,” said Dr Hlavaty. “There were also a number of puncture abrasions, that are pinprick sized abrasions. There were too many of those for me to count.”
Dr. Leigh Hlavaty was one of the last witnesses called for the prosecution. On the fourth day of the Detroit fatal pit bull mauling trial, there were no live Tweeting news reporters that we could locate. WXYZ did cover the trial in their evening news coverage. We do expect the trial of Geneke Lyons to end this week. Closing arguments should draw the attention of multiple news reporters, some who will be live Tweeting the proceedings, then awaiting the verdict as the jury deliberates.
06/06/16: Day 3 of Trial: Mother Testifies
Detroit, MI - On day three of the Detroit fatal pit bull mauling trial, Xavier's mother, Lucillie Strickland testified. There were multiple sidebars and objections during her testimony. During cross-examination, Lucillie said her other children would walk through fields to get to school because they were "terrified" of the dogs at the house. Defense introduced the civil lawsuit at the objection of prosecution. The jury was excused as the two sides argued over its admissibility.
Defense also introduced a CPS report, which did not implicate Lucillie. Prosecution strongly objected, saying they had never even seen the document before. The jury was sent out of the room for this debate as well. After reviewing the report, Judge Callahan said the mother is exonerated in the report, as noted at the end of it. Prosecution argued, "It's not relevant. It's not admissible. It's hearsay." Judge Callahan allowed the CPS report in and reminded prosecution:judge says intro. of docs cld "backfire" against defense and that jury might actually have empathy for her and understand civil action.— oralandar brand-wms (@oralandar_DN) June 6, 2016
Two police officers and an evidence technician for the Detroit Police Department also testified Monday. Evidence tech Shana Simmon testified there were gaps, some close to 9 inches high, in the defendant's fence that surrounded the backyard where the dogs were kept (We presume this is the space between the ground and wrought iron gate.). Simmon also testified the dogs had dug a hole under the gate that enclosed the dog run. Thus, the pit bulls escaped from both fences.judge tells pros "you can bury the defense" by them bringing in CPS report which judge says does not implicate mom. #pitbullattacktrial— oralandar brand-wms (@oralandar_DN) June 6, 2016
Follow Oralander Brand-Williams of The Detroit News for live Tweeting of this murder trial.
06/04/16: Weekend Update - Detroit Fatal Pit Bull Mauling Trial
Detroit, MI - So far seven witnesses have testified about what happened on the day Xavier Strickland, 4-years old, was brutally killed by four pit bulls belonging to Geneke Lyons. The dogs escaped beneath a gap under the defendant's gate and "snatched" the boy from his mother's arms as she tried to protect him. Lyons faces charges of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death in connection with his death.
The Detroit fatal pit bull mauling trial, involving second-degree murder charges after the death of a little boy, resumes Monday morning.On Friday Detroit Police Sgt. David Wright testified, providing the harrowing account as the first police officer on scene and firing shots into three of the pit bulls as they dashed around Lyons' backyard. Wright also testified that Xavier was still conscious when two officers rushed him to the hospital with his devastating injuries. On the first day of the trial, jurors where shown 9 minutes of a 16 minute video of the horrific attack that was captured by Lyons' own surveillance cameras.
The prosecution needs to show that Lyons knew his dogs were escaping to prove the second-degree murder charge, which requires showing the defendant had "wanton or willful" disregard to cause the death of Xavier. During opening arguments, prosecutors stated that phone records and text messages suggest Lyons knew the dogs had gotten out previously. So far, witnesses have testified about Lyons' pit bulls being loose in the past, but none had informed Lyons of this.
Previously, during the primary hearing in January, Judge Lydia Nance-Adams said "someone" at the home knew the dogs had gotten out before, noting the fencing at the home had chicken wire repairs to it, reported The Detroit News. Nance-Adams also described Lyons' home as a fortress where the pit bulls were kept outside. Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Parisa Kiani called the dogs "state-of-the-art” security guards. "They're not dogs. They're security equipment," Kiani said.
Finally and regrettably, we call to your attention what reporter George Hunter of The Detroit News Tweeted early Friday as he began coverage of this high-profile case. There were only two people in attendance. We hope this changes next week when Xavier's mother, Lucillie Strickland, testifies. Hunter also noted Judge James Callahan's unusual policies of allowing jurors to submit questions during the proceedings, which slows down the proceedings, and allowing jurors to take notes.2
Follow Oralander Brand-Williams of The Detroit News for live Tweeting of this murder trial.
06/03/16: Day 2 of Trial: Witnesses Testify
Detroit, MI - Testimony of witnesses who were on scene during the fatal dog mauling resumed Friday morning. Witnesses, starting from yesterday afternoon, include in part: Latoya Samuels-Mattis, who called what happened "the most tragic thing I've ever experienced," Cherisse Williams, who tried to intervene to save the boy and neighbor Roy Hardwick, who the jury sent questions to Judge Callahan about. George Hunter of The Detroit News Tweeted earlier today:
Viewing the Tweets in real time -- which came in like a storm at times -- it seems defense is trying to establish that defendant Geneke Lyons had "no idea" his dogs had been escaping. While various witnesses have testified, "the dogs are out again," at least none so far had communicated this to Lyons. Most tellingly, Lyons' house was "completely encased (in fencing). You can't go up to the porch," witness Yolanda Samuels testified, whose sons were also chased by his loose dogs.Letting jurors ask questions -- and then, after redirects and crosses, letting them ask even more questions -- really slows things down.— George Hunter (@GeorgeHunter_DN) June 3, 2016
During the afternoon, DPD Sgt. David Wright, a 28-year veteran, testified. Wright was close to the location of the defendant's home on Baylis Street. He was the first officer on scene and arrived fast, in about 2 minutes. Wright testified that several people approached his squad car and told him what was happening. He got out of his vehicle and ran to the backyard. He shook the gate and the chain on the gate fell away. "I drew my weapon and went into the yard," Wright testified.
Wright described the chaos in the defendant's backyard as the four pit bulls dashed back and forth and in and out of the doghouse, including one of the dogs Wright had already fired upon. Wright testified that he shot three pit bulls about four times each. Two of the injured dogs ran under the fence and out of his sight, Wright testified. "Two other officers came in; they picked up the boy and took him to the hospital," Wright told the courtroom. The boy was still conscious at that time.Prosecutor: "What happened after you shot (the dog) 4 times?"— George Hunter (@GeorgeHunter_DN) June 3, 2016
Sergeant: "I shot another dog ... because he came toward me."
Proceedings concluded after the defense cross-examined Wright. The trial resumes Monday.
Live tweeting: @GeorgeHunter_DN, The Detroit News and @elishaanderson, Detroit Free Press.
06/02/16: Day 1 of Trial: Jurors Watch Video
Detroit, MI - On the opening day of the Murder Two fatal dog mauling trial, jurors were shown the video of four pit bulls belonging to Geneke Lyons brutally attacking a 4-year old boy. Some jurors held tissues and wiped tears away after watching the footage, reports the Detroit Free Press. The video is from four surveillance cameras on the defendant's property. Jurors saw 9 minutes of the video. During the preliminary hearing in December, it was stated the video is 16 minutes long.
Defense attorney Craig Daly made the above statement outside the presence of the jury, reports the Free Press. Wayne County Circuit Judge James Callahan replied by saying the surveillance video footage is upsetting to any person. It's "understandable that some of the jurors were emotional,” Callahan said. He also stated the court stopped the video at the proper time, reports the Free Press. The video was stopped before the attack ended, reports the Free Press.Defense attorney Craig Daly said five jurors were crying during a portion of video and said it was "inflammatory."— Elisha Anderson (@elishaanderson) June 2, 2016
In the surveillance footage, several of the pit bulls can be seen inside the defendant's wrought iron fence, then outside, then back inside again, where the four dogs surrounded the boy and viciously attacked him. There was no audio for the video, reports the Free Press. The video was played on a screen in a Wayne County Circuit Courtroom during Lyons' second-degree murder trial. The jury is composed of nine women and five men -- two of these jurors will eventually become alternates.
During opening arguments, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Parisa Kiani told jurors that evidence presented will show that Lyons knowingly created a very high risk scenario with his dogs, one that could lead to death or great bodily harm. Part of that evidence lies in phone records and text messages, Kiani said, that suggest "the defendant knew the dogs had gotten out on more than one occasion" in the months leading up to Xavier's mauling death, reports the Free Press.
Testimony by witnesses who were on scene during the attack is expected to begin this afternoon.Kiani: We are here today because Xavier was killed, and the evidence will show the reason he was killed is because of the defendant.— Elisha Anderson (@elishaanderson) June 2, 2016
Follow Elisha Anderson of the Detroit Free Press for live Tweeting of this murder trial.
06/01/16: Opening Arguments Expected Thursday
Detroit, MI - On Wednesday jury selection concluded in a criminal trial for a pit bull owner whose dogs brutally killed a 4-year old boy in December. Geneke Antonio Lyons is charged with second-degree murder and two other felonies in connection to the death of Xavier Strickland. Opening statements are expected to begin Thursday. The Detroit News reports that after 2-days of questioning by prosecutors and defense attorneys, a jury mostly comprised of women was seated.
Prospective jurors were questioned about their attitudes regarding pit bulls, if they were afraid of dogs and about "responsible dog ownership." The News also reports that prospective jurors were asked if they could emotionally endure viewing graphic injury photos and video footage of the fatal attack.3 Judge Callahan said the trial is expected to last less than a week. Callahan also continued his gag order on the mauling case, saying, "we don't want (the case) tried in the newspapers."
This usually means that certain participants cannot talk to the media during the trial. This does not stop reporters from reporting on the case.4The defense is expected to argue that the horrific attack "was an accident" and that Lyons had no "wanton or willful" disregard to cause the death of the child. This is despite the defendant having gaps of up to 9-inches under his gate that in part secured the dogs along with knowledge his pit bulls had escaped the same way in the past. We expect Lyons' "keeping of the dogs" will be a primary focus. To better understand the fencing, watch this video and review this screenshot.
05/31/16: Detroit Fatal Pit Bull Mauling Trial Begins
Detroit, MI - On Tuesday the second-degree murder trial began for a Detroit man whose pit bulls escaped his property last December and eviscerated a 4-year old boy walking with his mother. Geneke Antonio Lyons, 42, is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death. The defendant faces up to life in prison if convicted by a jury on the murder count. Judge James Callahan is presiding over the fatal dog attack trial.
In January, after a preliminary hearing, Judge Lydia Nance-Adams ruled that Lyons would proceed to trial on all charges in connection to the death of Xavier Strickland. The hideous mauling, where four pit bulls disemboweled the boy, was captured on surveillance cameras on Lyons' property. During the preliminary hearing, Judge Adams and two court workers watched the 16 minute video showing horror-struck facial expressions. This video will likely be shown to jurors during the trial.
On December 2, 2015 Xavier and his mother Lucillie Strickland where walking to an elementary school when they passed near Lyons' home on 15500 Baylis Street. Four of his pit bulls flew out from beneath the property's fence and "snatched" the boy from his mother's arms as she fought to protect him. The dogs dragged Xavier by the hood of his coat across the street, yanked him under the fence and into Lyons' yard, where they ripped out his insides in front of his mother's eyes.
"I want [Lyons] to feel the pain I feel. I want him to feel the pain my son felt when those dogs were eating him." - Clarence Strickland, Xavier's fatherThe horrific attack left Detroit police officers aghast and sent shockwaves through the Detroit region, city officials and the media. "Children are facing enough challenges in Detroit. The fangs of wild dogs should not be among them," stated The Detroit News. Columnist Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press went further, urging the city to ban pit bulls, remarking on the "cowardice" of city officials and how pit bulls are "part of the fabric" of Detroit and that it is time for "new fabric."
A month after her son's brutal death, Detroit City Council members passed a resolution promising to toughen laws on vicious dogs. It is unknown if any actual changes ever resulted.5 The boy's parents, Lucillie and Clarence Strickland, also filed two lawsuits against Lyons and the property owner. Mark Bernstein of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm represents the couple. Bernstein also represented Steve Constantine who survived a catastrophic injury pit bull attack in Detroit in 2014.
Read more background at our previous post about the fatal pit bull mauling of Xavier Strickland.
Medical study: Pitbull Mauling Deaths in Detroit, by Cheryl L. Loewe MD et al., The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, Vol 28, December 2007.
2Such court details are fascinating to us. A special thanks to George Hunter for being so expressive and descriptive in his Tweet coverage of the trial! Also, at times it felt like we were in the courtroom following his detailed feed.
3Unless an emergency physician, nurse, paramedic, coroner or war veteran, any juror who answered "yes" to this question likely cannot imagine what they will actually have to see -- this is a child too. We pray for them.
4Gag orders do not apply to judicial proceeding held in open court or any documents that have not been placed under seal, according to the Lawyers.com description and purpose of gag orders.
5Detroit Animal Control has a long embattled history. In October, the city decided to move the department from police back to health department oversight. This was primarily to improve its "rescue and foster operations," not for public safety purposes. However, the city stated then that biters and dogs with a long history of nuisance would not be made available for rescue. A few weeks after Xavier was brutally killed, a new director was appointed. More recently, in February, a judge struck down a questionable part of the city's ordinance that must now be amended.
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