“All In The Family”: more victims than ever killed by dogs they know well
GRAY COURT, South Carolina––Laurens County, South Carolina sheriff’s deputies on October 2, 2020 arrested Jeffrey Kenneth Sullivan, 35, for involuntary manslaughter and three counts of possession of a dangerous animal in connection with the September 28, 2020 pit bull mauling death of Gray Court neighbor Jacqueline “Jae” Nicole Robinson-Downs, 32.
Photos indicate that Sullivan, apparently known mostly by his middle name, Kenneth, and as Apollo, a nickname, had been involved with pit bulls at least since 2009. “Apollo” appears to have originally been the name of one of his pit bulls.
Sullivan had been arrested in nearby Ware Shoals, South Carolina, as recently as July 21, 2020 for alleged failure to pay child support.
Three pits would not allow passer-by to approach the body
Robinson-Downs is believed to have already died when found by a passing home health care giver at about 10:30 a.m., who told police that three pit bulls surrounding the body would not allow her to approach.
The Robinson-Downs death, however, appears to have been more than just another case of an irresponsible owner allowing pit bulls to run amok to kill a hapless neighbor or passer-by.
Though Sullivan lived on Millennium Drive and Robinson-Downs on Allegra Lane, Google Earth photos indicate that their trailer homes were barely two car lengths apart.
Photos of Sullivan with Robinson-Downs’ husband of three years, Kevin “Kato” Tremell Downs, suggest they were friends. Robinson-Downs and her husband were godparents of at least one of Sullivan’s three children.
Posted fundraiser for Best Friends Animal Society
Robinson-Downs herself was a pit bull advocate, who on September 14, 2017 posted an unsuccessful birthday appeal for the pro-pit bull Best Friends Animal Society, featuring a pit bull photo.
Robinson-Downs, further, was personally involved in raising pit bull puppies, some of whom––or their parents––may have killed her.
Robinson-Downs since 2018 had posted to Facebook photos and video of what appear to have been at least three different pit bull litters.
One video, posted in January 2020, shows Robinson-Downs speaking baby-talk to half a dozen pit bull puppies swarming over urine-soaked bedding and her own feet.
Who was the victim?
Robinson-Downs was employed circa 2018 as a dog bather at Bubbles & Bows in Simpsonville, South Carolina, about five miles northwest of her home. She had also worked at Martin Nursery & Greenhouse & Nursery and Citgo Corner Mart in Gray Court, according to Facebook postings.
Originally from Kentucky, Robinson-Downs was mother of two children, Cameron “Cam” Blake Gamble, 15, and Destiny “Nee Nee” Nicole Gamble, 12, who live with their father and his wife in Waterloo, South Carolina. Robinson also gave birth to a daughter, Jasmine Shiree Griffin, in 2011, who died in infancy and was buried in the Laurens County potter’s field.
Robinson-Downs had a sister in Kentucky and a “best friend reared as a sister,” Ashley Seay of Gaffney, South Carolina, according to her online obituary.
Pit bull attack deaths continue at record pace
Robinson-Downs, the second person killed by pit bulls in the U.S. during September 2020, was the 37th person known to have been killed by dogs in the U.S. and Canada during the year 2020.
Robinson-Downs was also the 32nd victim known to have been killed by pit bulls, and the 27th killed by pit bulls with whom she appears to have been well acquainted.
The two September 2020 deaths maintained a pace of fatalities that appears likely to exceed the 2017 record 40 pit bull deaths in the U.S., among 57 total dog attack deaths in the U.S. and Canada.
COVID-19 not a likely factor
Medical doctors Cinnamon A. Dixon and Rakesh D. Mistry, of Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colorado, in a June 25, 2020 article posted by the Journal of Pediatrics speculated that dog attacks might be soaring––tripling at their own workplace––because of increased family stress and exposure to dogs resulting from stay-at-home orders imposed in response to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus panic.
But the fatal and disfiguring dog attack numbers logged by ANIMALS 24-7 since 1982 suggest that the only dogs who are severely injuring and killing people more often in 2020 than in past years are pit bulls. The reported surge in dog attacks in Aurora, Colorado, moreover, coincided with a drive to rescind the 2005 Aurora bylaw prohibiting keeping pit bulls, affirmed by nearly two-thirds of the electorate in 2014. The repeal drive stalled in August 2020 when the Aurora city council opted against placing a repeal measure on the November 2020 ballot.
Few if any of the 2020 pit bull attack deaths so far appear to have had anything to do with COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Eight of the 32 victims have been children younger than school age; seven were adults beyond retirement age, and eight more were from 55 to 64 years old, several of whom appear to have taken early retirement.
76-year-old fatally mauled in Oklahoma
The most recent fatality before Jacqueline “Jae” Nicole Robinson-Downs was Karen Wilkerson, 76, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, who on September 11, 2020 was fatally mauled by two pit bulls apparently kept by one of her daughters.
According to the McCurtain County Gazette, Wilkerson “suffered severe facial lacerations, a partially amputated left leg and numerous bites.”
Two adult daughters, one of whom may have owned the pit bulls involved, were also injured while trying to help their mother, McCurtain County sheriff’s deputies told the McCurtain County Gazette.
“The deadly attack occurred outside of [the town of] Idabel,” the McCurtain County Gazette reported, “after a woman dropped her mother off at her sister’s home. After she dropped her off and was driving away, she saw in her rearview mirror that her mother was on the ground being attacked by two pit bulls. She turned the car around, got out and ran to help her, as her sister ran from her home to help as well. The deceased woman’s husband put both dogs down, deputies said.”
Second local victim in 10 months
2019 pit bull attack victim #31, of 33 total, was retired Christmas tree farmer Cledith Ray Davenport, 79, who lived and died in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, a dozen miles north of Idabel.
One of Davenport’s own schnauzers was found dead in the ditch beside him.
Eight pit bull/blue heeler mixes belonging to a neighbor, with pit bull conformation but blue heeler markings, were impounded at the scene. As many as 11 pit/heeler mixes may have been involved, according to the Davenport family Facebook page “Justice for Cledith.”
But even family of victims defend pit bulls
“Justice for Cledith,” however, continues to reject the reality that pit bulls, less than 6% of the U.S. dog population, are consistently responsible for about 60% of all fatal attacks on humans, 75% of disfiguring attacks on humans, and upward of 90% of fatal attacks on other domestic animals.
Several of the most recent “Justice for Cledith” postings have complained that “the district attorney in Mccurtain County didn’t even write the dog owner a $20 ticket” for Cledith Davenport’s death, while “The dog owner now has five new dogs that are larger to replace the savage dogs that killed Cledith,” asking “Why should he even have dogs? Why are his new dogs allowed to roam free? Why are they allowed to roam freely on Clediths old home place?”
“The sweetest dogs”
Another “Justice for Cledith” contributor lamented at length, in multiple postings, that she could not allow her child to play outdoors because of aggressive behavior, including yard invasions, by a neighbor’s pit bull, who had “chased my elderly grandmother, my aunt, my mom, a man walking on road, other neighbors, and myself.”
Local law enforcement “told us the dog can’t be considered ‘aggressive’ until he bites someone,” the poster said.
But that same person claimed to “have owned two blue pits in the past,” who “were the sweetest dogs,” thereby opposing breed-specific legislation that could keep dangerous dogs out of a community before someone is actually killed or disfigured.