A packed Detroit courtroom fell silent for 16 minutes Tuesday as part of an hour-long video showing the horrific and fatal pit bull mauling of a 4-year-old Detroit boy was shown to the judge presiding over the case.
The video, which the owner of the dogs surrendered to police, was not shown to spectators or media gathered in the courtroom at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Judge Lydia Nance Adams of the 36th District Court is hearing the preliminary examination for 41-year-old Geneke Antonio Lyons, owner of the Baylis Street home in Detroit where the dogs mauled Xavier Strickland to death.
The video came from four surveillance cameras at Lyons’ home.
Those in the crowded courtroom, many of them family members of the defendant, sought reactions to the video in the face of Adams. She rubbed her hands frequently while a stenographer in the courtroom held her hands to her face, aghast at the images on the television monitor of the child being attacked by the four pit bulls, described by one witness as being big dogs. A courtroom deputy held his head down briefly to avoid seeing the graphic images.
The child’s mother, Lucillie Strickland, says her child was snatched from her on the afternoon of Dec. 2 as she and the boy walked to a nearby elementary school where she was volunteering. The incident occurred around 12:25 p.m. in the 15500 block of Baylis near the Lodge and Linwood on Detroit’s west side.
The boy was pulled about 50 feet by the dogs as the mother and the child walked along an area across from the home where the dogs were kept in a backyard. They pulled the child under a fence into the yard where all the dogs joined in on the attack.
Mark Bernstein, the family’s civil attorney, said the public will have a chance to view the video when it becomes evidence during the trial.
“There will be a sense of outrage, which is the only decent human reaction,” Bernstein said after Tuesday’s hearing. “Hopefully it will be an opportunity to address this issue in a meaningful way.
Bernstein, who has filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the family against Lyons, said “sadly” the boy’s mother will have to testify in the proceedings as a witness and will have to relive how her child “was torn away from her by the dogs.”
“She’s a strong woman,” said Bernstein. “There are dark and difficult moments ahead for her.”
The mother, who says she is “never” going to get over the attack and the tragic loss of her child, is scheduled to testify Wednesday.
Cherisse Williams, who lives in the neighborhood where the attack took place, testified that she heard sobbing and crying as she left her home to run errands. She said she saw a woman crying and holding her leg.
“She said, ‘Please help me... the dogs have my baby,’ and she pointed to the house on the corner,” Williams testified. She said she ran to the house on Baylis and saw a frightening scene.
“The child was in the backyard and all three of the dogs were hovered over the child,” said Williams. “They were snatching his clothes off. I didn’t hear anything but those dogs.”
Williams said she ran to her car to grab tear gas to spray the dogs, but it had little effect. “They were trying to get at me,” she said. “The Mace made it worse. They were barking and growling at me. I had to run back. They were coming up under the fence at me.”
Another resident, Debra Hardrick, who admits she is afraid of dogs, said she’s seen three “pits” out three times unaccompanied and without a leash in the past year.
“They were walking down the street ... walking down the block,” said Hardrick. “I seen three dogs. They were walking down the street and I just walked in the house. When you see three dogs you just walk in the house.”