Fewer than 15% of fatal dog attacks bring prosecutions of dog owners
LaGRANGE, Georgia––Rosetta Marian Russell Gesselman, 81, of La Grange, Georgia, on October 7, 2022 became the 56th dog attack fatality of the year in the U.S. and Canada.
Forty-three of the 56 dog attack victims thus far in 2022 were not the actual owners of the dogs who killed them. Thirty-three of the victims were not where the dogs or the dogs’ owners lived.
Twelve of the dog attack fatalities were children whose parents might be considered culpable for even allowing them to be around the ten pit bulls, a Rottweiler, and a Dogue du Bordeaux who killed them.
Yet only seven dog owners so far have been criminally charged, albeit that one has been charged with causing two deaths.
No owners of dogs who killed people appear to have been convicted in 2022.
Among those charged is now dog groomer Tongia Gesselman, 48, one of Rosetta Gesselman’s three adult daughters, charged with reckless conduct and felony involuntary manslaughter.
Calgary pit bull owner escapes criminal charges
Another owner, Denis Ivan Bagaric, 33, on October 11, 2022 escaped criminal prosecution in Calgary, Alberta, for the June 5, 2022 pit bull mauling death of neighbor Betty Ann “Rusty” Williams, 86.
The Crown prosecutor’s office determined that Bagaric could not be charged with criminal negligence because his three Staffordshire pit bulls forced their way through a locked gate.
Bagaric testified that the three pit bulls began “play-fighting” in the alley behind his home and that of the victim, Williams.
New trigger: bag of dandelions
Bagaric said he saw Williams allegedly attempting to break up the “play fight” by hitting the pit bulls with a plastic bag of dandelions.
Bagarić and his housemate Talyn Lexie Calkins are to be tried in provincial court on February 2-3, 2023 on three counts each of allowing an animal attack on a person causing severe injury, three counts each of allowing an animal attack to a person, three counts of allowing an animal bite to a person, and three counts of each of allowing an animal running at large.
Each count carries a potential maximum fine of $10,000, but the charges are likely to be consolidated, and Canadian courts rarely levy the maximum penalty.
The three pit bulls are still in custody of Calgary Animal Services.
56 U.S. & Canadian dog attack deaths so far in 2022
Rosetta Gesselman’s death brought the U.S. and Canadian dog attack toll in 2022 to just one short of the all-time record, established in 2017, with two and a half months to go.
Rosetta Gesselman was the 35th pit bull fatality in the U.S. and Canada during 2022, still eight short of the record 43 pit bull fatalities logged in 2021.
Twelve victims thus far in 2022, however, were killed by dogs not identified by law enforcement. If those deaths are proportionally allocated parallel to the fatal attacks in which dog breed types have been identified, the pit bull fatality record has probably already been equaled and perhaps exceeded.
Bred pit bull & mastiff, kept two pups
Rosetta Gesselman lived with her twin sister and two adult daughters, Tina and Tongia, also known as Tanya.
‘The Troup County Marshal’s Office responded to the scene to assist in the investigation and the capture of the dogs, which were one female pit bull mix and two male pit bull / great mastiff mixes,” the LaGrange Daily News reported.
“One of the dogs was captured and later euthanized and the other two had to be put down by first responders on the scene due to their aggressiveness.”
Photographs posted by Tongia Gesselman to Facebook show a female pit bull, male Cane Corso/pit mix, and male Sharpei/mastiff mix. Postings by Tongia Gesselman indicate she bred the female pit bull with a mastiff and kept two puppies from the litter.
Pit & pit mixes killed smaller dogs
“Through a joint investigation,” the LaGrange Daily News continued, “the Troup County Marshal’s Office and Criminal Investigations Division determined the dogs’ owner, Tongia Gesselman, knew the dogs had previously killed family pets and had also bit someone who required a hospital visit. These incidents were never reported by Tongia. At the time of this incident, Tongia was not home.”
The family pets killed by Tongia’s pit bull and pit mixes appear to have been much smaller dogs, several of whom appear in family photos.
Posted Tina Gesselman one day after the fatal attack on her mother, “I can’t imagine what she [Rosetta Gesselman] went through as she fought for her life. She passed in the ambulance and they were able to bring her back. When she arrived at the hospital they immediately started giving her blood, but it just poured out her wounds and she passed! My poor Mommy was mauled to death by two pits.”
“She must have been petrified”
Why Tina Gesselman mentioned only two of the three pit bulls who were present is unclear.
“I know she must have been petrified,” Tina Gesselman continued. “Everyone who knows my Mom knows what a wonderful person she is, and how sweet and loving she was! She worked for McDonald Oil for 32 years until she was 79 and she loved all her customers! And she didn’t deserve to go like that!! Today has been almost unbearable and I can’t imagine the rest of my life without her!
“I still have my Mom’s twin sister with me,” Tina Gesselman added, “but she is very confused (early dementia) so she asks me 100 times a day where is Tiny (my Mom’s nickname) and Tongia and what has happened, so I have to keep explaining it over and over until I get physically sick.”
Indicted for manslaughter––twice
Tongia Gesselman was charged seven weeks after Brandy Lee Dowdy, 39, of Red Bay, Alabama, was indicted for manslaughter for the second time by a Franklin County grand jury.
Dowdy, a prominent online pit bull advocate, was indicted this time for the July 12, 2022 pit bull mauling death of Michelle Ann Sheeks, 44.
“Court documents say, ‘Dowdy…did recklessly cause the death of Michelle Ann Sheeks by keeping and/or maintaining vicious dogs, allowing them to roam freely in a pack,” reported Kaitlin Kanable of WHNT-TV in Huntsville.
“On April 28, 2022,” Kanable explained, “ Michelle was walking near her home when her husband said she was attacked by a pack of wild dogs. Investigators say that several dogs dragged Michelle down a hill and a neighbor got the dogs away from her before calling 911.
“Michelle suffered injuries so bad to her body that it took six surgeries and grafts to stabilize her. She was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center where she later died due to complications from her injuries.”
Jacqueline Summer Beard
Brandy Lee Dowdy was previously indicted for the pit bull mauling death of Jacqueline Summer Beard, 58, on April 29, 2022.
An Alabama Department of Public Health worker, Beard was killed beside her car after driving to Dowdy’s home to investigate the attack on Sheeks the previous day.
“Dowdy also faces penalties under Emily’s Law, signed by Governor Kay Ivey in 2018, which imposes felony penalties on owners of dogs that seriously injure or kill a person, depending on the circumstances surrounding the attack,” Kanable mentioned.
“Emily’s Law, named in memory of Emily Colvin, who was killed by dogs outside her home in Jackson County in 2017, provides for felony and misdemeanor charges, depending on the circumstances surrounding a dangerous dog attack,” Kanable finished.
Dowdy, released on bond after her arrest on the first set of manslaughter charges, was arrested again on July 10, 2022, two days before her second manslaughter indictment, for alleged possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
“After the arrest, the State of Alabama filed a motion to revoke her bond in her manslaughter case,” Nick Kramer of WAFF-TV in Huntsville reported.
Dowdy on October 13, 2022 pleaded innocent to the manslaughter charges and requested a jury trial, set for December 12, 2022.
Samuel Joseph Cartwright
Samuel Joseph Cartwright, 47, of Fresno, Texas, a Houston suburb, was on July 22, 2022 arrested and charged with attack by dog resulting in death, a week after his seven pit bulls allegedly killed neighbor Freddy Garcia, 71.
Dog attack resulting in human death is a second degree felony in Texas.
Cartwright was held at the Fort Bend County Jail, pending posting bond set at $100,000.
Garcia, a Guatemalan immigrant, was killed three weeks after Matthew Leroy Satchell, 32, of Huffman, Texas, also a Houston suburb, was charged with felony dog attack for the June 9, 2022 fatal pit bull mauling of Nicolas Vasquez, 51.
Though both Fresno and Huffman are unincorporated outlying suburbs of Houston, they are nearly 50 miles apart, on opposite sides of the metropolis.
Also killed by dog attacks in the Houston suburbs recently were Omar Ghawtah, 16, a recent immigrant from Egypt, who was chased in front of a car moments after getting off a bus on June 19, 2022, and an unidentified male bicyclist who was fatally mauled on August 26, 2022 near a homeless encampment in the Channelview settlement just east of the city.
Suspect at large
Available public records indicate that Rise Jo Morrow, 60, of Claremore, Oklahoma, remains at large more than six months after she was charged with second degree manslaughter but did not appear in court for an April 2022 preliminary hearing.
Reported Lori Fulbright of KOTV back in April 2022, “An affidavit for Rise Jo Morrow says in June 2016 her pit bull named Hurley bit a man’s face, a friend who was coming to the Morrow home. His injuries required surgery.”
In November 2016, Fulbright said, “the dog bit a man who was visiting. Those injuries were disfiguring and Morrow was issued a ticket for harboring a vicious dog.”
On top of the situation
In 2017 or 2018, Fullbright continued, “the dog knocked down a woman who was coming to the Morrow home to report a water leak. The dog stayed on top of the victim until Morrow called off the dog.”
Finally, in November 2020, Fullbright said, “The dog bit several people. When a woman tried to help the victims, she was bitten on the thigh and breast. Another woman was bitten and her injuries required long term hospitalization.
“When that woman’s husband tried to help her, he was bitten several times in the stomach and thighs.”
In 2021, Fullbright finished, “That man went back to the hospital for his dog bite injuries that became septic and he died. The autopsy said sepsis and wounds contributed to his death. On March 25, 2022, Morrow was charged with manslaughter and arrested and ordered to return to court on April 26, but failed to do so.”
Authorities have not yet named the victim.
Nightmare in Waynesboro
Stephen Christopher Kachmar, 61, also known on social media as Chris Nitemare Kachmar, and his wife Penny Lee Bashlor, 64, remain free on bail pending a five-day jury trial set to begin on February 13, 2023 in Waynesboro, Virginia.
Kachmar and Bachlor were in May 2022 charged with five offenses each, including non-capital murder and manslaughter, for the January 29, 2022 Rottweiler mauling death of their seven-year-old granddaughter Olivia Grace Floyd.
Also indicted by the Waynesboro grand jury in connection with her death were Brooks Anthony Floyd, 39, father of the victim, and his wife, mother of the victim, Alicia Rene Floyd, 37.
The Floyds were charged only with child cruelty resulting in injury.
Accessory to murder
The most serious charge brought against the owner of a dog involved in a fatality thus far in 2022 is homicide, filed against Shamaine Cato, 48, of Brooklyn, New York, for the May 15, 2022 death of her nine-year-old daughter Shalom Guifarro.
In that case, however, the dog was an accessory to the actual killing.
Cato apparently severely beat Guifarro and choked her with an electrical cord before Guifarro fled, allegedly suffering several bites to her back from the family pit bull before scrambling under a bed.
Cato then allegedly lifted up one end of the bed, inflicting the fatal injury by slamming it down on her daughter’s head. Shalom Guifarro then died from internal bleeding.