Case over 2010 fatality already in court for seven years
MEMPHIS, Tennessee––The rental property management firm Epstein Enterprises and apartment house owner Longview Heights Partners, both of Memphis, Tennessee, reportedly intend to fight a court award of $2.5 million to the surviving family of 2010 pit bull attack fatality William Parker, 71.
The award, if actually paid, would be among the biggest payouts on record in a dog attack fatality case, though awards not paid have run as high as $37 million.
The case has already been before the courts longer than any other civil suit arising from a fatal dog attack of which ANIMALS 24-7 is aware.
Two chronically chained pit bulls were loose
Walking to a convenience store on an errand for his wife Bessie Parker, just before noon on July 20, 2010, Parker took a commonly used neighborhood shortcut from his home at 268 North Manassas Street, “through a grassy, trash-strewn lot” toward Poplar Avenue, recounted Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Jody Callahan.
. “Two pit bulls, normally chained to a stairwell at a nearby apartment, attacked the 71-year-old man there, causing severe wounds to his legs,” Callahan continued.
“While someone called 911, another person ran to the Parker home to alert them. Parker’s daughter, Gardenia, ran to her dad’s aid, but was also attacked, as was passer-by Kevin Stringfellow.”
Four rescuers badly injured
Gardenia suffered a broken elbow and bites “that lined her legs from ankles to thighs,” according to Lawrence Buser of the Commercial Appeal.
Stringfellow, who tried to beat the pit bulls off with a long-necked beer bottle, testified that he was bitten 52 times and suffered two paralyzed fingers from the attack.
“One was trying to pull me down and the other one was biting my leg,” Stringfellow told Buser.
Resumed Callahan, “When fire personnel arrived, the dogs also attacked Lieutenant Ray Pelletier and firefighter Ken Hartfield,” both of whom are paramedics.
“As long as we were there with the patient, the dogs were attacking us. If we got within 15 or 20 feet from the patient, the dogs moved in,” elaborated Pelletier to Commercial Appeal reporter Linda A. Moore.
“Dad lying in a pool of blood”
Recalled Gardenia Parker to April Thompson of WREG News 3 television in Memphis, “Somebody come beating on the door saying the old man that sits on the porch all the time listening to music, he is being attacked by two pit bulls.”
“My dad was lying there in a pool of blood,” Parker said. “The dogs had mauled him on both his legs. His arms, you could tell where he was fighting them off. He had bite marks all along his arms. The dogs were still attacking him when I got there. He took his last breath on my leg.”
The coroner ruled that William Parker died from a heart attack. Whether he might otherwise have survived his extensive loss of blood was unclear.
Pit bulls belong to jailed sex offender
The circumstances leading to the fatal attack, Callahan of the Commercial Appeal learned soon afterward, according to neighbors began when the pit bulls’ owner, Bernard Humphrey, moved into the Longview Heights apartment complex about a month earlier.
Resident Virginia Taylor told Callahan that the pit bulls “charged my brother early Saturday morning,” four days before William Parker was killed.
The following day, Sunday, “Taylor and others said the dogs forced a man to jump atop his car, where he stayed for 45 minutes to avoid being attacked,” Callahan wrote. “Police came out, but didn’t take the dogs away.”
Instead, police took Humphrey away, under arrest, “after police discovered he’d failed to update his address for the sex offender registry,” Callahan explained. “Humphrey, 31 [at the time], has an extensive criminal record that includes statutory rape, drug charges, weapons charges and vandalism.”
Cops left pit bulls in apartment
Memphis Animal Services was not called at that time, as the responding police reportedly believed the pit bulls were “contained” inside Humphrey’s apartment, in custody of Sherry Wooten, then 23, identified at the time as girlfriend of Humphrey’s brother.
Only after the fatal attack on William Parker were the pit bulls impounded.
The pit bulls escaped, attorney Ron Lucchesi told Buser of the Commercial Appeal, after Wooten, who was eight months pregnant at the time “paid [an unidentified] ‘crack head’ $2 to let the dogs out so she could use the bathroom in the apartment.”
“No contest” plea to manslaughter
Wooten was charged with reckless homicide for William Parker’s death, and with four counts of reckless endangerment for allegedly causing the injuries to Gardenia Parker, Hartfield, Pelletier, and Stringfellow. Wooten eventually pleaded “no contest” to manslaughter.
The Parker family sued Epstein Enterprises and Longview Heights Partners, represented by attorney Daryl Gray, because “We felt the apartment complex, with knowledge of those animals being on the premises, had full responsibility essentially to prevent the people in the neighborhood, the tenants and the residents of that apartment complex from being injured by a dangerous condition,” Gray told Thompson of WREG News 3 television.
“Mental & physical suffering”
Summarized Thompson, “After years of legal wrangling, the court ruled on October 31, 2018 that the apartment owners were at fault and awarded Gardenia Parker $2.5 million. The court said it was for the mental and physical suffering endured by William Parker and for the losses suffered by Gardenia and her mother.
“The attorney for the apartment owners said they have no comment on the $2.5 million award,” Thompson finished. “But they say they’re filing new motions in court. And depending on the outcome of those, they will be filing an appeal.”