Pit bull owner guilty in mauling death of 4-year-old

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

A Wayne County jury Thursday convicted a Detroit man whose four pit bulls fatally mauled a 4-year-old Detroit boy to death last December.

Geneke Lyons was found guilty of manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death.

On Wednesday, Wayne Circuit Judge James Callahan dropped a second-degree murder charge saying the prosecution had not proven its case.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said “We are pleased with the jury verdict and are happy that they convicted the defendant on the highest charge after the judge dismissed the second-degree murder charge. We are disappointed however that Defendant Lyons remains on bond, and was not remanded to jail.”

Lyons will be sentenced June 30. He faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

Xavier Strickland was pulled from his mother, Lucillie Strickland as they walked in the area of Baylis and the Lodge Freeway service drive on the city’s west side. They were on the way to Thurgood Marshall elementary school.

Strickland testified Xavier, who weighed 28 pounds, was grabbed from her clutches by three of the dogs and pulled Xavier under a gate to the backyard of the home where they were kept outside.

“The dogs grabbed his leg and started yanking him ... pulling him,” Strickland said. “I was trying to pull back. I tried to have a tight grip. I just couldn’t. I could just grab a shoe. When they got to the gate, I was still trying to grab him.”

Lucillie Strickland said she ran around the corner for help as the dogs mauled her son to death in the backyard. A fourth dog, the father of the pack, joined in the attack.

Strickland said her son’s last words were “Help me mommy ... help me mommy ... help me.”

Police had to shoot three of the dogs to get to Xavier before taking him to Henry Ford hospital, where he died of 90 puncture wounds. A fourth dog was euthanized.

Strickland said she also suffered bites from the dogs on her ears, leg and back, but didn’t seek treatment until weeks later.

The trial, which began May 31, included the graphic and horrific video showing the mauling. The video was taken from surveillance cameras from Lyons’ own home.

On Wednesday, the caretaker of the dogs took the stand. He told jurors one of the four dogs which took part in the mauling was the pregnant mother of two of the dogs. Like other witnesses for the defense the man said the dogs were not vicious.

Lyons’ co-counsel Francisco Villarreul said his client was not told about any problems or complaints neighbors might have encountered with the dogs.

Villarruel said Lyons took care to make sure the animals did not get out of their pen and backyard by installing double fencing around his home. But the prosecutor pointed out there was a seven-inch gap in the fencing. Lyons’ attorney said the dogs were pets and was a family of a father and mother dog along with their puppies.

Lyons still faces a civil lawsuit in the case. No trial date has been scheduled for the case which is in the civil division of Wayne County Circuit Court.

Attorney Mark Bernstein is representing Strickland and her husband in the case.

“This case is not about the dogs but the dogs’ owner,” said Bernstein. “The verdict indicates that ... here.”


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