Murder by dog
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.; LOS ANGELES, Calif.––A jury in Saline County, Arkansas late on October 8, 2014 convicted Brande Coy, 50, and Emily Coy, 25, of Hot Springs Village of misdemeanor negligent homicide and participating in an unlawful dog attack, respectively, for the November 21, 2013 fatal mauling of Joan Kappen, 75.
Brande Coy was sentenced to serve 60 days in jail plus a year on probation, and to pay a $2,500 fine. Emily Coy, whose bull mastiff killed Kappen, was sentenced to serve 120 days in jail plus a year on probation, and was also fined $2,500.
Brande Coy had been charged with manslaughter, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but was cleared of the most serious charge despite acknowledging in testimony that she had released two bull mastiffs to run loose in a populated neighborhood, making no effort to retrieve them.
Emily Coy, Brande Coy’s daughter, was charged only with unlawful dog attack.
Emily Coy’s bull mastiff was a littermate of the bull mastiff who killed Ayden Evans, 5, in Jessieville, Arkansas on June 9, 2013.
The lenient sentencing for Joan Kappen’s death came less than a week after pit bull owner Alex Donald Jackson, 31, of Los Angeles County, California, was on October 3, 2014 sentenced to serve from 15 years to life in prison for the May 9, 2013 mauling death of Palmdale, California resident Pamela Devitt, 63.
Trial testimony established that four of Jackson’s eight pit bulls inflicted from 150 to 200 puncture wounds on Devitt. Jackson was convicted of second-degree murder on August 29, 2014.
But Jackson’s sentence, one of the harshest on U.S. record for a fatal dog attack, was markedly stiffer than the one-year sentence plus three years on probation given in July 2014 to Steven Hayashi, 55, of Concord, California, for involuntary manslaughter. Three of Hayashi’s five pit bulls killed his grandson, Jacob Bisbee, age two, in July 2010.
At least seven other defendants around the U.S. face murder or manslaughter charges for recent dog attack deaths.
Homicide by dog was so rarely charged as recently as 2002 that national TV news media broadcast live the delivery of the jury verdict convicting attorneys Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel of murder and manslaughter for the January 2001 fatal mauling of San Francisco athletic coach Diane Whipple.
Few of the current cases, by contrast, have drawn much notice beyond the jurisdictions of the alleged offenses.
David Glass case
Most recently, Eric Hodges, 35, of the unincorporated Lamar community in Benton County, Mississippi, was on September 23, 2014 charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence for the pit bull attack death of David Glass, 51.
Glass, Hodges’ alleged victim, was a father of three. Benton County Sheriff Arnie McMullen told media that Glass was attacked in the roadway near the intersection of Sexton Road and Highway 7 around 1 a.m. on September 21, 2014, while walking to visit a friend’s grave, but was not discovered for nearly four hours. Glass was airlifted to the Memphis Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee, but died soon after arrival.
Three free-roaming pit bulls were impounded at the scene, McMullen said. Three more chained pit bulls were removed from Hodges’ property.
Glass was killed only a few miles from where Benton County sheriff’s deputies and more than 100 personnel from other law enforcement agencies on Easter Sunday 2013 arrested 52 people and impounded 26 pit bulls from a dogfight that allegedly included “major players” in dogfighting nationally. Shots were fired as 70 to 150 spectators, according to varying law enforcement estimates, escaped through the woods.
Five suspects in a related case and 18 pit bulls were rounded up on April 5, 2013 from locations in Tracy and Carmichael, California. The California suspects were charged with possession of fighting dogs, drug and weapons-related offenses, and child endangerment.
Claudia Gallardo case
In Stockton, California, Brian Hrenko, 61, is to go to trial on October 20, 2014 in San Joaquin Superior Court for the April 11, 2013 pit bull mauling death of Claudia Gallardo, 36. A related wrongful death lawsuit is also pending.
“I am representing Claudia’s three children in the civil case against the property owner and manager who allowed Hrenko to squat on their residential property with its defective double gate and his deadly pit bulls,” attorney Kenneth Phillips told ANIMALS 24-7. Phillips, a longtime specialist in representing dog attack victims, hosts the www.dogbitelaw.com web site.
Craig Sytsma case
In Lapeer, Michigan, Sebastiano Quagliata, 44, and his wife Valbona Lucaj, 45, on September 22, 2014 waived arraignment on charges of second-degree murder for the July 23, 2014 mauling death of jogger Craig Sytsma, 46. Sytsma was killed by two Cane Corsos kept by Quagliata and Lucaj, who were reportedly breeding dogs. Law enforcement sources said the dogs had attacked three people in two years. Quagliata, an Italian citizen, and Lucaj, a citizen of Albania, are also alleged illegal immigrants. Both have resided in the U.S. for more than 17 years. They have three U.S.-born children, ages 8, 12, and 15.
Javon Dade Jr. case
Javon Dade Sr., 30, and Alessandra Carrasco, 26, of Goulds, Florida, were on September 11, 2014 scheduled for trial for manslaughter on November 17, 2014, in connection with the August 13, 2014 pit bull mauling death of four-year-old Javon Dade Jr.
“Police said Dade and Carrasco were sleeping off a hangover when Javon Dade Jr. got outside through an unlocked back door,” reported WPLG senior digital editor Amanda Batchelor. “He was reported missing by the couple, who eventually discovered him dead in their back yard. Police said the couple had spent the previous night smoking marijuana cigarettes laced with cocaine. Six dogs––three adults and three puppies––were removed from the property. An adult male pit bull was later euthanized because of the dog’s temperament. Dade was fined $1,040 by Miami-Dade County Animal Services for violating the county dog ordinance.”
Also facing trial in a death-by-dog case are Timothy Dewayne Coleman and Tiara Deshawn Thomas, of Houston, Texas. Coleman and Thomas, charged in July 2014, kept at least one of two pit bulls who on January 5, 2014 allegedly killed homeless woman Christina Burleson, 43, while roaming at large.
Four dead in Ohio
Bucking the trend toward holding dog owners more accountable for fatal attacks, a grand jury in Montgomery County, Ohio on September 11, 2014 declined to indict Andrew Nason, 29, and Julie Custer, 25, for the February 25, 2014 fatally mauling of neighbor Klonda Richey by their two Cane Corsos.
Richey had complained about the dogs’ behavior 12 times to the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, and had called 911 about the dogs sixteen times, reported Jill Drury of WDTN.
Richey was the fourth victim of a fatal dog attack in Montgomery County since 2001, and the third since 2012. Yet another fatal attack occurred in the county on July 20, 2014, when a pit bull killed 7-month-old Jonathan Quarles Jr. in the home of his grandmother, Kimiko Hardy. Hardy on August 4, 2014 was convicted of allowing a pit bull to attack another dog, in an incident occurring about a month before the Quarles attack. Hardy was sentenced to pay $172 in restitution, and received 180 days in jail, suspended.
“She is also not allowed to own any dogs for the next several years,” Drury wrote.
Killed for concern about cats
Facing dog-related homicide charges of a different sort are Laquandra Kinchen, 27, and her husband Thomas Ligons, 31, of Fresno, California. Kinchen on September 18, 2014 reportedly stabbed neighbor Mary Lara, 56, fourteen times, after Lara expressed concern that Kinchen’s pit bull might attack her cats.
“Police said a witness was able to get a partial license plate number from the getaway car, and then a neighbor’s surveillance cameras captured the murder on tape,” reported Sontaya Rose of KFSN.
But Fresno police chief Dyer told Rose that the first clue leading to Kinchen’s arrest for murder was that the dog ran home.
“When Laquandry Kinchen was arrested,” Dyer said, “the pit bull was in the back yard.”
Ligons was arrested for allegedly assaulting a witness and being an accessory to murder.
“He had been arrested before, in July of this year, on assault and domestic violence charges,” reported Elizabeth Warmerdam for Crime Voice. “He has had a number of prior arrests in the past few years,” Warnerdam said, “mostly for burglary.”