Detroit — The owner of a pack of pit bulls that killed a 4-year-old Detroit boy last week was arraigned Monday as the parents filed a lawsuit against him.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged 41-year-old Geneke Antonio Lyons of Detroit in connection with the mauling of Xavier Strickland. Lyons owned the house where the dogs were kept in the backyard.
He was arraigned via video before Magistrate Dawn White and sent to the Wayne County Jail. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. He was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death.
White refused Lyons’ attorney request to give him a 10 percent bond. A probable cause conference will be held Dec. 14 and a preliminary hearing Dec. 22.
“It is a tragic, tragic, tragic event,” attorney Francisco J. Villarruel said. “The danger today is not (Lyons). The danger is the dogs ... those dogs are no longer here.” Villarruel told the judge his client has no criminal record.
During a news interview earlier Monday, the parents of the boy said they were happy criminal charges were brought in the case. Xavier’s dad, Clarence Strickland, said he wants to see Lyons prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“I want him to feel the pain I feel,” Strickland said in the Farmington Hills office of his lawyer, Mark Bernstein. “I want him to feel the pain my son felt when those dogs were eating him.”
The boy’s mother, Lucillie, said she will “never” cope with her loss and the way Xavier died but said “justice is being served for my son” and others who have died or been hurt from dog attacks.
“It’s going to be there forever, forever,” Lucillie Strickland said, sitting across from her husband. “It’s sad he had to (die) like that.”
New details emerged Monday about the attack. Bernstein showed a map of the area where the attack took place saying the dog crossed Baylis to where the mother and son were walking to avoid the home where the dogs lived. The dog dragged Xavier at least 30 feet back to their yard where his small body was snatched under a fence by one of the other dogs.
The mother and son were trying to avoid the home since Xavier’s sister has been harassed by the dogs earlier.
Prosecutors say the animals were dangerous and had escaped from their fenced area before and were a “known” problem in the neighborhood.
“The evidence in this case will show that these dogs saw this child as a meal, and we believe that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged actions of the defendant in this case rise to the level of murder in the second degree,” Worthy said in a statement Monday. “It is a gross understatement to say that this case is harrowing example of irresponsible pet ownership.”
The family’s lawsuit lists Lyons as a resident of Commerce Township.
“This case should be a wake up call for our community,” said Bernstein of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm, who is representing the Stricklands. “We get calls every day at our office about injuries caused by dogs with dangerous owners. But this affects our region more profoundly — it’s the death of a child. It’s time to address this problem in a very serious way.”
Bernstein’s office received a $100 million symbolic award for Detroiter Steve Constantine who was mauled by a pack of up to 11 pit bulls and other breeds in October 2014 on Pennsylvania Street. The animals left him with extensive injuries that resulted in limbs on the left side of his body being torn off. He lost an arm and a foot and faces more surgeries as he continues to recover from the attack.
“There is a lot of work to do,” Bernstein said Monday referring to cracking down on irresponsible owners of vicious dogs to prevent future maulings of people. “(Prosecutors and law enforcement) are using every tool in their tool box and so are we.”
Bernstein noted that “it’s not the dog it’s the owner.”
Lucillie Strickland and her husband, Clarence, a railroad worker, are asking for damages and also for the court to hold the owner of the home and the dogs responsible for what happened to Xavier, according a press release Monday announcing the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states Lyons had a duty to maintain “reasonable care and precautions in the supervision, training and securing” of the dogs to prevent reasonable harm to citizens such as Xavier. Lyons breached his responsibility by “allowing the aforementioned dogs to remain, stay, live and/or be kept on potentially leased property while knowing the extent of the damage said dogs can cause due to their prior vicious tendencies and living conditions.”
According to the lawsuit, Lyons owns Dearborn Heights-based Genique Real Estate Management Company, LLC.
The boy was walking with his mom around 12:24 p.m. Wednesday when he was attacked by the four dogs from the back of a home on the 15500 block of Baylis.
The child’s mother said she tried to shield her child from the dogs by falling on top of him but to no avail. She said the dogs bit her in the back and legs as she tried to fight them away.
“They pulled him from me and (dragged) him under the fence. They just ate him,” said Lucillie Strickland, a 33-year-old wife and mother of seven, breaking down. Strickland said she has been “constantly” reliving in her mind the sight of her 4-year-old son being mauled by the four dogs.
The family lives around the corner from the home of where the dogs were bordered in a backyard area.
The boy died at a local hospital from bites to the abdomen and legs. His mother says she tried in vain to free her little boy from the dogs.
When police arrived in the neighborhood near the Lodge Freeway and Linwood, they fatally shot three of the dogs. The fourth was captured.
The boy died of multiple puncture wounds to his body, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office. The manner of death was ruled accidental.
The boy’s uncle, Ramone Cage, praised the prosecutor’s office for bringing the charges, saying: “I’m grateful. I’m thankful that justice is being served.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with Xavier’s funeral costs.
The funeral for Xavier is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday at New Life Ministry of Detroit church, 2101 Lakewood near Kercheval in Detroit.