Jurors cry, gasp at video of dogs mauling Detroit boy

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Some jurors cried while others struggled to catch their breath watching the disturbing and graphic video that captured the gruesome fatal mauling of a 4-year-old Detroit boy by a pack of pit bulls as his mother watched, helpless.

The horrific video of the Dec. 2 attack on Xavier Strickland showed the dogs dragging him under a fence and into a backyard as his frantic mother, Lucillie Strickland, paced outside the gate.

Geneke Antonio Lyons listens during his trial Thursday at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit. He is charged in the death of a 4-year-old boy who was dragged under a gate and mauled to death by pit bulls last December on Detroit property owned by Lyons.

A fourth dog, the “father” of the pack, is later shown pouncing on the small child as well. At times, the child is seen trying to free himself from the dogs’ deadly grip until he is no longer barely able to move. The dogs bit the child in the torso and legs and tugged at him like a ragdoll.

Xavier was bitten about 90 times and he died later of abdominal injuries at Henry Ford Hospital.

The video from a security surveillance camera at Geneke Antonio Lyons’ home was shown shortly after opening statements in the second-degree murder trial of Lyons, the pit bulls’ owner. Lyons had his back to the video but looked down as the video was shown.

Lyons’ co-counsel, Craig Daly, later told Wayne Circuit Judge James Callahan the video was so “inflammatory” that his client couldn’t get a fair trial.

After seeing the pained and emotional reaction of the jurors, Wayne Circuit Judge James Callahan ordered the videotape stopped and sent the jury to lunch.

Lyons, 42, is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death.

During opening statements, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Parisa Kiani said Lyons created a high risk of injury and death of the boy because he was “negligent” in how he cared for his dogs.

“We are not here, though, because of what the dogs did ... that in and of itself is tragedy. ... We are here because of what the defendant did,” said Kiani Thursday. “The defendant, not the dogs, is on trial.”

Lyons’ co-counsel, Francisco Villarruel, said Lyons did his best to maintain and restrain the dogs.

“The evidence is going to show this was an accident,” he said.

Three witnesses took the stand Thursday and recounted the emotional and chaotic scene surrounding the incident after finding Xavier’s mother outside the backyard of the home near the service drive of the Lodge Freeway and Baylis where the dogs had dragged her little boy.

“It’s the most tragic thing I’ll ever experience,“ Latoya Samuels-Mattis said. “Xavier’s mom was crying out in the street ‘Help me, help me. They got my baby.’ ... It’s something I’ve been trying to forget. Every time I see that baby I see my baby. I have nightmares about this.”

Witness Latoya Samuels-Mattis talks Thursday about how her son is the same age as Xavier Strickland, who was mauled by pit bulls. She was on the stand during the trial of Geneke Antonio Lyons, charged in the death of the 4-year-old boy who was dragged under a gate and mauled to death by pit bulls on Detroit property owned by Lyons in December 2015 .

Cherisse Williams said Lucillie Strickland came up to her seeking help.

“I must have thought I was a superhero or something. I took off running over to try to help,” Williams testified Thursday. “When I got there the dogs were on the child. I was trying to throw bricks and sticks. I ran back to my car to try to get some Mace. We were all trying to jump the fence to try to get the dogs off the baby. It was just too many dogs.”

Williams said police came and shot three of the dogs dead and rescued Xavier, who was mortally wounded from the mauling. The fourth dog was taken away by authorities and later euthanized.

Under cross-examination, Williams said she did observe that Lyons had double-fencing at the home. She also testified that while she did not see the dogs out prior to the Dec. 2 incident, she did see them playing in their yard without anyone watching the dogs.

Samuels-Mattis said she saw one of the dogs out once during the summer but the animal scampered back into its yard when it saw her drive by.

Another neighbor, Ralph Milhouse, said he used an iron bar, similar to a vehicle’s anti-theft device, to distract the dogs so that they would free the boy. He said three to four dogs were on the child as he was screaming.

Testimony continues at 8:30 a.m. Friday.


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