Child killed by dogs had 90 wounds; owner to face trial

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

Detroit — The owner of a pack of pit bulls that fatally mauled a 4-year-old Detroit boy last month — biting him 90 times — will stand trial for the attack and death of the child.

Judge Lydia Nance-Adams continued the $1 million bond for the dog’s owner, 41-year-old Geneke Lyons, who is also the owner of the home on Baylis near the Lodge Freeway where the dogs lived.

The dogs attacked Xavier Strickland on Dec. 2 as he walked with his mother near the area where the dogs were kept, ripping him away from Lucillie Strickland. The child later died at the hospital of abdominal injuries.

Nance-Adams on Thursday denied in 36th District Court a request by Lyons’ attorney to have his bond lowered, citing the seriousness of the case. The judge said “someone” at the home knew the dogs had gotten out before, noting the fencing at the home had chicken wire repairs to it. She said the home was like a fortress where about five pit bulls were kept outside.

Nance-Adams added the dogs dragged the child under the fence “without hesitation.”

Lyons’ defense attorney, Francisco Villarruel, said his client was being overcharged, adding there was no evidence Lyons showed wanton or willful disregard to cause the death of the child. He said his client kept the dogs well fed, maintained and in a secured area bounded by double and sometimes triple fencing.

“It’s a classic case of overcharging on the part of the (prosecutor),” Villarruel said Thursday. “(Lyons) did not intend for this to happen. It was an accident.”

Lyons is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death. He is due back in court for an arraignment on the information Jan. 14.

In asking for Lyons to be bound over for trial, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Parisa Kiani made an impassioned plea, noting the child was bitten by the pack of pit bulls for nine minutes, sustaining 90 puncture wounds and more than 300 abrasions from the attack.

Kiani said the dogs were too vicious to be called dogs and instead called them “state-of-the-art” security guards “who had one main objective and that was to protect their property.”

“They’re not dogs. They’re guards” Kiani said. “They’re security equipment.”

Kiani said four people in the neighborhood, including the child’s mother, knew the dogs had gotten out of their fencing in the past.

Also Thursday, Detroit Police Detective Antonio Carlisi testified the fencing where the dogs were kept had gaps in it, sometimes up to nine inches, that allowed the dog to get out. Xavier was dragged under the fence and into the yard by one of the dogs, which led to the other dogs joining in the fatal attack on the youngster.

During the hearing for the preliminary examination last month, Lucillie Strickland testified before Nance-Adams about the attack, which she said she’ll “never forget.”

“I had him in my arms, (and) the dogs snatched him from me and drug him from me to the fence,” she said, just a few feet away from 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,” Strickland said. “The dogs were surrounding him.”

Police were called and officers shot three of the dogs.

The child was taken by police to Henry Ford Hospital, where he died.

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