Mom testifies pit bulls ‘were biting and eating my son’

Oralandar Brand-Williams

Detroit — The mother of a 4-year-old Detroit boy who was fatally mauled by four pit bulls recounted the attack during the preliminary examination for the man charged with harboring the dogs.

“They ... took him from me and pulled him under the fence,” Lucille Strickland testified in the murder case’s preliminary hearing.

In a calm and controlled manner, Lucillie Strickland testified before 36th District Judge Lydia Nance Adams about the attack, which she has said she’ll “never forget.”

The dogs grabbed her son Xavier from her arms on the afternoon of Dec. 2 on Baylis near the Lodge Freeway on the city’s west side.

“I had him in my arms (and) the dogs snatched him from me and drug him from me to the fence,” Strickland said Wednesday, just a few feet away from the 41-year-old defendant in the case, Geneke Lyons. “They pulled him, took him from me and pulled him under the fence. They started biting and eating my son. I started screaming, ‘Help, help, help!’ ”

Strickland told the court how her child begged for help, saying “Help me Ma. ... Help me Ma.” Once the dogs got Xavier inside the fence, Strickland ran for help and came back with another neighbor and started looking for her son.

“We couldn’t see him,” said Strickland. “The dogs were surrounding him.”

The hearing is being held to determine whether Lyons should be bound over to stand trial for the fatal attack. He is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death.

Police were called and officers arrived and shot three of the dogs. The child was taken by police to Henry Ford Hospital, where he died. Doctors wanted to have the child transported to Children’s Hospital but he died shortly after getting to Henry Ford of several abdominal injuries from the dog attack.

Yolanda Samuels, the neighbor whose house Strickland ran to for help, also testified, saying the dogs were “feeding” on the child and “eating” him.

“I saw people surrounding the fence to get at the dogs to get them off Xavier,” Samuels said Wednesday. “There’s really no words for me that could describe what I saw. His eyes were open, looking at the sky.”

A Wayne County Sheriff's Deputy directs Geneke Antonio Lyons to his seat during his preliminary examination Wednesday in Detroit. Lyons is the owner of four pit bulls who mauled a 4-year-old boy to death.

Echoing two residents from the neighborhood who testified Tuesday, Samuels said she had seen the dogs out before the attack, unleashed and unaccompanied. She said her children carried sticks when they had to walk in the area near the home on Baylis where the dogs were kept.

“The children would walk with the sticks for protection (from the dogs),” said Samuels. “(The dogs) would chase them.”

Under cross-examination by Lyons’ defense attorney, Samuels said she was not chased by the dogs herself.

Also on Wednesday, Lyons’ attorney, Francisco Villaruel, asked the judge to lower his client’s $1 million cash bond. Nance Adams refused. Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Parisa Kiani said Lyons’ bond should remain at the current amount since he has a criminal background in Michigan as well as in Texas and Arizona. Villaruel countered that the Texas case was dismissed because of a lack of evidence.

The preliminary examination will continue at 11 a.m. Jan. 7.

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