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Man arrested and charged with murder after his dogs killed female jogger

Pit bull killing: Murder charges in fatal dog attacks extremely rare

Murder charges related to fatal dog maulings are extremely rare in the United States and have not been filed in Los Angeles in a long time -- if ever -- officials said.

On Thursday, Los Angeles County authorities arrested Alex Jackson, 29, at his Littlerock home and charged him with murder in connection with a pit bull attack that killed an Antelope Valley jogger.

“We believe there was evidence that he was aware the dogs were vicious and they have attacked before and he knew of the danger they posed,” Jane Robison, a district attorney’s spokeswoman.

The office cannot recall a similar case, she said. 

Jackson faces up to life in prison if convicted, a Los Angeles County district attorney’s spokesman said. Eight dogs -- six pit bulls and two mixed breeds -- were recovered from his home, sheriff's officials said. Four of the dogs were believed to be involved in the attack. What appeared to be blood was found on their coats and muzzles.

Since January, authorities had received at least three other reports of Jackson’s pit bulls attacking other people, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Samantha MacDonald.

Pamela Devitt, 63, was walking on May 9 when she was attacked by a pack of four pit bulls. A passerby spotted the attack, and called police.

A deputy found one of the dogs still attacking the victim when he arrived on scene. Devitt died en route to the hospital as a result of blood loss. Coroner's officials said they found 150 to 200 puncture wounds and sharp force trauma across her body.

The death prompted a wide search for a pack of roving pit bulls.

There are between 70 million and 80 million dogs in the U.S. and about 30 dog-related deaths each year, said Donald Cleary of the National Canine Research Council. 

“When it comes to murder charges, there are very, very few over decades. But increasingly dog owners whose animals attack are facing criminal prosecution,” he said.

When attacks do occur, they tend to be in outlying locations where “people live to avoid others,” Cleary said. Most dogs involved in attacks aren’t family pets, and have usually been isolated from family interaction, as seems to be the case with the Littlerock pit bulls, he said.

In 2011, nearly a quarter of the dogs involved in such incidents showed evidence of neglect and abuse, according to a National Canine Research Council Report.

But murder charges in fatal cases remain rare. In the last 15 years, Cleary said he is aware of two cases, in San Francisco and Atlanta.

An attorney whose dogs mauled her neighbor to death in San Francisco is serving 15 years to life in prison for the 2001 killing of lacrosse coach Dianne Whipple.

A jury convicted Marjorie Knoller of second-degree murder, which a judge reduced to involuntary manslaughter. He said there was not enough evidence for Knoller to know her two 100-pound Presa Canarios would kill. A judge later reinstated the jury’s verdict after an appeal.

"The defendant acted with conscious disregard for human life," Judge Charlotte Woolard said after listing some of more than 30 incidents in which Knoller's dogs bit or lunged at other people, and quoting from a veterinarian's letter warning the dogs were dangerous.

The prosecution presented witnesses who said the dogs terrorized and threatened people and animals in the months before Whipple's death. Whipple, the jury was told, was terrified of Knoller's dogs because one had bitten her. Witnesses for the prosecution also said that Knoller and her husband Robert Noel were callous when neighbors complained and refused advice to have the dogs trained and muzzled.

On the day of the attack, Noel was not at home. Bane, the male dog, broke free and charged Whipple at her doorstep. Hera, the female dog, then escaped.

A neighbor called 911, but Whipple's pulse and breathing stopped as the paramedics arrived. A coroner said she had more than 77 bites from head to toe. The dogs were euthanized shortly after the killing.

Noel was tried with Knoller in Los Angeles and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and ownership of a mischievous animal causing death. He served his sentence and was released to Solano County in Northern California.

Should the owner be charged with murder? 

I think it's about damn time owners are finally held responsible for their animals attacking.


Asked by LostSoul88 at 11:40 AM on May. 31, 2013 in Politics & Current Events

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This question is closed.
Answers (12)
  • I wouldn't call it 1st degree murder unless the owner sicced the dogs on the victim. But yes, their lack of responsibility should be heavily punished.

    Answer by anng.atlanta at 11:53 AM on May. 31, 2013

  • i agree with the charge. this isnt the first time there have been issues and he knew they were dangerous...he probably raised them to be that way. these arent loving family pets that were provoked to violence.

    Answer by okmanders at 12:00 PM on May. 31, 2013

  • Because he was aware of thier aggressive behavior and they previously attacked someone, yes he should. I agree with Anna.atlanta I don't feel he should be charged with first degree murder. Maybe involuntary manslader.

    Answer by skinnyslokita at 12:03 PM on May. 31, 2013

  • Yes, especially in light of this information:

    Since January, authorities had received at least three other reports of Jackson’s pit bulls attacking other people, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Samantha MacDonald.

    In fact, I'm wondering why he still had them in his possession if the above is true.  I would think that would be grounds to remove the animals from him.  


    Answer by QuinnMae at 2:01 PM on May. 31, 2013

  • From what I read here, I think he should. I have a pit bull myself, and I take every precaution to make sure he can't hurt others. I have a fenced yard, and when that's not enough (like now, when I have part of the fence down because a car hit it), I have a kennel and a lead for him to be on. He's not a vicious dog, he gets scared of a baby opossum that wanders into his kennel, but I know that if he felt someone was a threat to me or my kids, he might very well go after them. That's why I use common sense and make sure that he, and others, are all safe. There's someone in my neighborhood that I can't stand, because her dog goes running free constantly and it's always "he ran out the door before I could stop him." I mean, how many times does your dog have to run out the door before you figure out you need to grab his collar when the door is open?

    Answer by wendythewriter at 11:46 AM on May. 31, 2013

  • Owners of dogs are owners o potentially lethal weapons and have to take the responsibility for that weapon, IMO.
    It is about time.
    I love animals of all kinds but they do need to be under the owners control.

    Answer by Dardenella at 11:47 AM on May. 31, 2013

  • He should be cause he knew they had attacked before and he knew they were dangerous.
    If he was not at home when they attakced, why were the dogs not inside the house?

    Answer by virginiamama71 at 11:51 AM on May. 31, 2013

  • First degree murder probably wouldn't stick because the dog owner didn't plan the attack beforehand with the intent of harming the victim who died, but some kind of a lesser murder charge is perfectly appropriate. It's no different than someone who leaves a loaded gun lying around and then acts surprised when something happens, except that the poor jogger had no idea she was getting near lethal danger.

    Answer by Ballad at 12:36 PM on May. 31, 2013

  • I feel do feel sorry for those dogs. It their owner's fault they are like that. Dogs do as they are trained, and what comes naturally to them. And if you run, you are considered food. That man needs to be put down, just like his dogs will be.
    There was a case here where there was a dog that had a history of attacking whoever, whatever came into his sight. The owner was a elderly woman, and the dog was being way over protective of her. Well one day the dog lunged at a kid one day, and the woman said enough was enough and called animal control to come out and take her dog because he has gotten to out of control and was concerned for everyone's safety. They told her the have to charge her $155 to come out and take the dog. The woman was on SSI, and didn't have enough money at that time. Well a week went by, and the dog got out before she could stop him, and he attacked a 4 yr old, and nearly killed her.


    Answer by Michigan-Mom74 at 12:23 AM on Jun. 1, 2013

  • The family tried suing, but was shut down by the community because the elderly woman tried to get animal control out there, but she didn't have enough money.

    Answer by Michigan-Mom74 at 12:27 AM on Jun. 1, 2013