The simplest, most obvious explanation for an observed phenomenon is usually the best and most accurate.
ATLANTA, Georgia; EAST TOLEDO, Ohio––Occam’s Razor seems to be rarely wielded lately in response to human deaths associated with pit bulls, for example the July 28, 2021 death of Katherine “Katie” Janness in Atlanta, Georgia, and the August 11, 2021 death of Javon Marquis Stokes in East Toledo, Ohio.
Not that any razor, or other instrument, either sharp or blunt, is an effective defensive weapon against a charging dog, as ANIMALS 24-7 has quantified for nearly 40 years and has repeatedly explained in detail.
Occam’s Razor could not have helped either Janness or Stokes, but is among the sharpest of analytical tools: the scientific principle that the simplest, most obvious explanation for an observed phenomenon is usually the best and most accurate.
For example, if a man shaves every morning and still has a beard the next morning, the simplest, most obvious explanation for the beard appearing each morning is that facial hair grows, no matter how closely he shaves it.
Janness, 40, on July 28, 2021 was last seen by life partner Emma Clark when she took their pit bull Bowie for an after midnight walk in Piedmont Park, Atlanta.
Worried that Janness and Bowie did not promptly return, Clark told police and media that she tracked them by cell phone, finding both dead at about 1:10 a.m., reportedly with multiple stab wounds.
Absent any human suspect known to have time, place, and motive to kill either Janness or Bowie, Occam’s Razor suggests that Bowie attacked Janness, who defended herself with whatever sharp object was in her possession, managing to fatally wound the pit bull before she bled to death.
Dog owners, other witnesses-after-the-fact, police, and even experienced forensic investigators have often before mistaken dog attack injuries for stab wounds.
Most notoriously, Sharon Reynolds, 7, of Kingston, Ontario, on June 12, 1997 became the second known pit bull fatality in Canada, but no one recognized her death as a dog attack until January 2001.
Sharon Reynolds’ mother, Louise Reynolds, was wrongly charged with stabbing her daughter to death with a pair of scissors. Louise Reynolds spent three and a half years in jail, losing a second child through an adoption arranged by the government of Ontario, before she was cleared by the combination of forensic evidence indicting the pit bull with the discovery that the author of the original pathology report had misrepresented evidence in many other cases.
PETA posts $10,000 reward
Thus far the Occam’s Razor hypothesis seems to be the one explanation for the deaths of Janness and the pit bull Bowie that Atlanta police, FBI experts brought in as consultants, Clark, other friends and family of Janness, local media, and the Atlanta gay community, who have taken up Janness’ death as a cause celebré, have yet to mention, let alone investigate.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has put up a reward of $10,000 for the arrest and conviction of the alleged human killer, perhaps suspecting that it may never be claimed.
“Bit the victim’s neck”
Lucas County, Ohio coroner Diane Scala-Barnett told Toledo Blade reporter Alexandra Mester that Javon “Foofur” Stokes, 26, suffered a grand mal seizure, during which a pit bull named Jackson “bit the victim’s neck.”
An autopsy confirmed the pit bull bite as the cause of death, but before the autopsy report became available late on August 12, 2021, Mester emphasized every fact except the likelihood suggested by Occam’s Razor analysis that the pit bull killed Stokes.
Wrote Mester, “Amanda Knezevich, who co-owns the dog involved with fiance Austin Dotson, said no one saw Stokes go down with the seizure — a condition for which he was supposed to be taking medication — but her two children went to get something to drink, saw the dog on him, and immediately informed her.”
“Nudging & licking”
Knezevich told Mester that she saw Jackson “nudging and licking” Stokes.
Continued Mester, “She believes Jackson was trying to help Stokes and wake him up as the dog did not have any blood on him,” as might have been the case if the fallen victim had drowned in his own blood.
“She was able to pull Jackson off without any difficulty,” Mester said.
Said Knezevich, whom social media postings indicate was mother of a child by Stokes, “That dog loved [Stokes] more than he loved his own owners, me and Austin. That dog was his best friend. He slept with him.”
Knezevich and Dotson appear to have acquired Jackson the pit bull in mid-July 2021.
“On August 2, 2021,” Mester summarized, “the dog reportedly bit a passing neighbor on the hand, causing a slight puncture wound to a thumb, a report states. The victim indicated he did not plan to seek medical treatment.”
Knezevich “was cited for a dog running at large and warned to get a rabies shot and license” for Jackson, Mester said.
Kim Hartford, a friend of victim Stokes’ wife Kristina Adams, posted to Facebook a somewhat different version of the incident.
“Dog bit someone else last week,” Hartford said after Stokes’ death. “People still kept it. Heard it growling and didn’t even check to see what was the dog growling about, then laughed in the mama’s face when we took her there to confront the people.”
Owner defended Jackson
Knezevich told Mester that Jackson had not previously seen Stokes having a seizure.
Dotson surrendered Jackson to Lucas County Canine Care & Control at the scene.
Lucas County animal shelter director Kelly Sears told Mester that Jackson “would likely be euthanized,” Mester wrote.
Knezevich, however, maintained to Mester, that “Jackson was not vicious and was playing with police when they arrived on scene. Sears,” Mester added, “said the dog was friendly with canine control officers at the scene and has continued to be friendly with shelter staff.”
“We gonna get you justice”
Adams, 32, engaged to Stokes since January 2021 and married to him only since July 27, 2021, acknowledged having had a stormy relationship with him.
On August 11, 2021, before Adams learned of Stokes’ death, which had occurred about two hours earlier, she posted, “Just so everyone is aware, I am not with Foofur. I don’t care to hear about him or anything he is doing. I have washed my hands with him.”
After Adams was informed of Stokes’ death, however, Adams posted, “Everyone knew me and him fought daily but we was always good. He had a ring on his finger and told me as long as that ring was on his finger he was committed to me. He was my love and I will never let him go. My prayers are with his family and his children. Yes, we were only together since December , but we went through a lot together, with him having his seizures and hospital trips and everything else.
“Don’t worry baby,” Adams finished. “We gonna get you justice.”
“Take ownership of what your dog did”
Stokes’ mother, Maxine Stokes, “said Jackson’s owners need to be held accountable,” Mester reported. “She wants officials to file criminal charges against Knezevich and Dotson, and for them to serve time behind bars.”
Said Stokes, to Mester, “I know that’s your pet, that you love him, but take ownership of what your dog did to my son.”
Posted Stokes to Facebook, “At the end of the day that bitch wants to defend what a dog did to my son.”
Concluded Mester, “Just a month ago, another Toledoan was killed by a pet dog,” also a pit bull.
“Emily Kahl, 31, was home alone at the time of the incident,” Mester recounted. “She was known to have a seizure disorder. The coroner’s office ruled she died of dog-bite trauma to the neck, but it is impossible to determine if Kahl had a seizure before or during the time she was bitten.”
Mester and fellow Toledo Blade reporter John Besche on July 22, 2021 published a detailed report about Kahl’s death four days earlier, but did not mention that Kahl––and Stokes––likely would not have died if the Toledo Blade had not waged an unrelenting multi-year campaign, 2008-2012, to rescind a phrase in the Ohio state dangerous dog law that recognized pit bulls as inherently “vicious” and therefore subject to extended safety requirements for those who chose to keep them.
The Toledo Blade also campaigned successfully to repeal the Toledo and Lucas County bylaws that for 25 years prohibited keeping pit bulls, and to fire 22-year Lucas County dog warden Tom Skeldon for conscientiously enforcing the laws as written.
John Robinson Block
The identification of the dogs who killed Kahl and Stokes as pit bulls, though the words “pit bull” were put in quotes by the Blade, was unusual for media owned by John Robinson Block, 65, also owner of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, among a variety of other print and broadcast holdings.
Block, shortly after acquiring a pit bull himself, forbade mentioning pit bulls in connection with dog attacks, two former Blade reporters told ANIMALS 24-7 at the time, except when unavoidable and then only in quotes.
ANIMALS 24-7 in Emily Kahl: 16th fatality attributable to 2012 gutting of Ohio dog law detailed Block’s efforts to undo public protection from pit bulls, and his bizarre subsequent record, including publishing an editorial widely decried as racist on Martin Luther King Day 2018; preventing African-American reporters from covering protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in June 2020; trying to delete mention that the rioters who stormed the national capital in Washington D.C. on January 8, 2021 were there in support of defeated former U.S. president Donald Trump; and on November 18, 2019 receiving an almost unprecedented vote of “no confidence” from the newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette over a variety of actions including, according to their resolution, having “Fired or forced out three beloved newsroom managers, with combined service of nearly 100 years to the Post-Gazette, because they stood up to his dictatorial actions.”
The Ohio dog law amendments that Block sought, pushed through the state legislature by the pit bull advocacy organization Animal Farm Foundation, the Best Friends Animal Society, and then-Montgomery County Animal Resource Center director Mark Kumpf, took effect on May 23, 2012.
Fired in early 2019, Kumpf took with him to his present position as Detroit animal control director a record including five human dog attack fatalities on his watch, two more than any other animal control director in U.S. history.
All five Montgomery County dog attack victims were killed after the Ohio dog law was weakened; four of the five were killed by dogs whose possession formerly would have been prohibited or restricted.
Stokes, the most recent of the 22 victims of fatal dog attacks in Ohio since the dog law amendments, was the fifteenth killed by pit bulls. Two others were killed by Cane Corsos, possession of which also would have been prohibited or restricted.
Stokes was also the third pit bull fatality in Toledo since Tom Skeldon was ousted. Kahl was the second.
The first Toledo pit bull fatality, Shirley Wright, age 89, was attacked by a pit bull from a neighboring household on May 6, 2017, and died from complications of her injuries on June 8, 2017.
Ohio human fatalities caused by dogs since 2012
Victims of dogs restricted under the old law (17)
Makayla Darnell, 3 days, Lima, OH, 5-17-2012. Killed by grandmother’s pit bull while the amended law was pending.
Dawn Juergens, 75, Montgomery, OH, 9-1-2012. Killed by her own two Cane Corsos.
Klonda Richey, 57, Dayton, OH, 2-7-2014. Killed by neighbors’ 2 Cane Corsos.
Jonathan Quarles Jr., Dayton, OH, 7 months, 7-2014. Killed by grandmother’s pit bull.
Cindy Whisman, 59, Madison Township, 8-1-2014. Killed by daughter’s pit bull.
Annie Williams, Shaker Heights, OH, 7-12-2015. Killed by her son-in-law’s pit bull.
Maurice Brown, 60, Dayton, OH, 4-24-2017. Neighbor’s pit bull.
Shirley Wright, 89, Toledo, OH, injured 5-6-2017, died 6-8-2017. Neighbor’s pit bull.
Michael Parks, 60, Fostoria, OH, 7-20-2017. Killed breaking up fight between his pit bull & another.
Barrett Hagans, 1 month, Knox County, OH, 9-20-2017. Killed by parents’ pit bull.
Haze Groin, 2 months, Hamilton County, OH, 11-7-2017. Killed by parents’ pit bull.
Delia Riley, 42, Cincinnati, OH, 8-22-2018. Killed by own pit bull.McKenzie Terwell, 4 months, Dayton, OH, 1-9-2020; family pit bull.
Boy, seven months, Akron, OH, 8-7-2020; killed by pit bull at grandmother’s house.
Raelynn Larrison, 4 months, Dayton, OH, 12-31-2020; officially, smothered by pit bull.
Emily Kahl, 31, Toledo, OH, 7-18-2021. Killed by housemate’s pit bull.
Javon Stokes, 26, East Toledo, OH, 8-11-2021. Killed during seizure by pit bull kept by two friends.
Other Ohio dog-inflicted fatalities, 2012-2021 (5)
Elizabeth Louise Hirt, 93, Bethel Township, OH, found badly mauled by her two Boston terriers on November 27, 2012. Remaining in intensive care for the next two weeks, she died on December 11, 2012.
Mia Gibson, 3 months, Columbus, OH, 12-10-2013. Killed by parents’ Shiba Inu.
Aiden Grim, 3 days, Youngstown, OH, 2-7-2016. Killed by parents’ GSD/Lab mix.
Sophia Booth, 2 weeks, Cleveland, OH, 11-3-2017. German shepherd.
Mary Matthews, 49, Clear Creek, OH, 11-1-2019. Officially, two Great Danes.