A woman, 61, was found dead after being attacked by a pit bull she was dog sitting.
Post-Fatality Dog Bites
UPDATE 10/07/18: Last week, we were finally able to talk to the county coroner. He confirmed the victim suffered a fatal heart attack and was bitten by the dog afterward. The bites were inflicted post-mortem. Despite the conflicting media reports, one news report did clearly state this. Initially, police did not know the order of the events, not until the autopsy was complete. To add more confusion, this pit bull attacked the man who tried to help the woman and also had a history of attacks.
09/13/18: Woman Found Dead
Morgan County, MO - On September 1, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call from a man who reported that a 61-year old woman had been viciously attacked by a large pit bull at a home in the 30000 block of Proctor Road. The woman was dog sitting the pit bull at the owner's home. The man went to the home to check on the woman, Morgan County Sheriff Norman Dills said. He found her on the ground, and when he tried to help her, the pit bull attacked him.
Responding paramedics found the woman on the floor, but could not treat her due to the aggressive pit bull that was guarding her body. In addition to the September 1 attacks on the woman and man, who required surgery for his wounds, the pit bull attacked two other people previously, Sheriff Dills said. Deputies were forced to gun down the dog to reach the woman. When emergency responders were able to reach her, they discovered she was deceased.
On September 5, Captain J. D. Williams identified the victim as 61-year old Deborah Russell. The medical examiner determined the cause of death was a heart attack and not the injuries sustained in the vicious attack. Instances involving fatal heart attacks and vicious dog attacks are included in DogsBite.org statistical data when the victim sustains serious bite injuries, like the vicious attack of David Brown and his wife by a family pit bull in Owensboro, Kentucky in February of this year.
Deaths like Russell are examined on a case-by-case basis. The requirements are a vicious attack causing serious injuries when the underlying cause of death is a heart attack. Over the 13-year period of 2005 to 2017, canines killed 433 Americans. Only 1.4% (6) of those deaths involved fatal heart attacks where the victim suffered bite injuries ranging from serious to catastrophic. Typically, but not always, coroners remark that bites are a contributing cause of death in these cases.
The gist of what the sheriff is saying in the Lake Expo piece -- and in earlier news articles -- is that the woman was attacked and injured by the dog and suffered a fatal heart attack. The dog was in the home alone with the deceased victim for about an hour before being discovered. According to the coroner, the bite injuries were not lethal. The idea that a coroner could not determine pre- from post-mortem bite injuries, as Sheriff Dills states, is the only part of this case that lacks reason.
02/17/18: 2018 Dog Bite Fatality: Man Dies, Woman Seriously Injured by Dog in Kentucky
12/16/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Texas 'Dog Rescuer' Killed by Dogs She Rescued
11/07/13: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Spanaway Woman Attacked by Pit Bulls Dies from Injuries
Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.