Dog Owner Sentenced
UPDATE 09/18/08: The owner of the dogs that mauled to death two people last year, Cheryl Harper, 56, and Edward Gierlach, 91, has been sentenced. Diane Cockrell, 52, of Iosco Township, was ordered to serve a minimum of 3.5 years to a maximum of 15 years in prison for allowing her American bulldogs-mixes to run free and kill two people in rural Iosco Township in 2007.
The MLive Michigan article reported that Cockrell shocked some people in the packed courtroom by saying she knew both of the victims and had spoken to them in the past. "I remember (Cheryl Harper) was just a light," Cockrell said. "(Ed Gierlach) was trying to teach me how to grow plants. He was a wonderful person, and I am just devastated by what has happened to all of you."
Members of the victims' families also spoke at the sentencing hearing. "My kid is now deathly afraid of dogs; I hope this doesn't affect her for the rest of her life," said Todd Harper, one of Cheryl Harper's sons. Todd Harper also read a letter his daughter wrote to the judge: "I really miss her hugs and kisses, her taking me to the pond to fish. She was the only grandmother I had left."
The judge has allowed Cockrell to delay serving her sentence until Jan. 2 so she can have a previously scheduled surgery procedure. Harper's sons objected, saying that by the end of the year they will have missed out on two Christmases and two Thanksgivings with their mother, but Cockrell will be with her family. The families also disagreed with the length of the sentence.
"I feel (Cockrell) deserved to get a harsher sentence. When you take a life away, I don't think three years, seven month is sufficient. I feel she deserved at least five to seven years." - Todd Harper
On the day of the attack, Cockrell was out of town. The dogs escaped her property and killed two human beings. A sign that hung on Cockrell's property read: "This property is maintained for the comfort and security of our animals. IF YOU DON'T LIKE THAT PLEASE GO AWAY."
08/20/08: Mandatory Jail Time
Livingston County, MI - A woman whose bulldog-mixes killed two people in 2007 has pleaded no contest to three charges. Diane Cockrell, 52 of Iosco Township, entered her plea today to two felony counts of keeping dangerous animals causing death and a misdemeanor count of allowing her dogs to stray. The plea isn't an admission of guilt but it will be treated as such for sentencing.
The prosecutor's office agreed to recommend a prison sentence of between 3 years and 7 months and 15 years. Each felony count carries a maximum of 15 years. Cockrell's sentencing in circuit court will be Sept. 18. Authorities say Cockrell's four bulldogs attacked 91-year-old Edward Gierlach in his driveway and 56-year-old Cheryl Harper nearby on September 13th, 2007.
Cockrell made a wise decision to plead; a judge recently ruled the jury could be shown the injury photos. Edward's son, Eugene testified in a previous hearing that his father's body was missing flesh on his leg, including a portion that was "just bone." A short while later, he saw what appeared to be a pile of debris in the road. It turned out that "debris" was the body of Cheryl Harper.