Mauling victim's dad testifies: 'She was just lifeless'

The father of the 9-year-old southwest Detroit girl mauled to death by three pit bulls in an alley behind her home recounted the details Wednesday during a preliminary examination for the owner of the dogs, Pierre Cleveland.

Armando Hernandez told Judge Michael Wagner of 36th District Court that he didn't know the child involved was his own daughter, Emma Hernandez, until he came upon her lifeless body in the alley near their home on Florida Street on Aug. 19 when his son came running to him about an injured child.

Second witness Armando Hernandez, father of victim Emma Hernandez, cries as he testifies about his daughter's mauling death.

Hernandez said he came from the front of the home, ran to the back of the house and saw a little girl lying on the ground.

"I picked her up in my arms and I couldn't believe she was just lifeless," said an emotional Hernandez. "I fall on the ground ... and I started crying. I can't believe my baby's gone. I'm trying to give her CPR."

Cleveland, 33, kept his head down, at times holding his bandaged right hand over his eyes, and shook and cried as Hernandez testified. He is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having dangerous animals causing death.

Hernandez said Cleveland came out of his house, saying he heard his dogs barking and came to investigate. Hernandez said he told Cleveland, "Your dogs just killed my daughter."

He said Cleveland told him afterward he was going to shoot his dogs.

"When he left, I heard two-three gunshots," said Hernandez.

Defendent Pierre Cleveland covers his face as second-witness Armando Hernandez, father of victim Emma Hernandez, testifies about his daughter's mauling death.

An Animal Control officer told The News that the main "aggressor" dog was shot to death. It is still not known what happened to the other two dogs Animal Control officers took into custody.

During the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor played part of a 911 call made the day the child was mauled. Chaos and frantic efforts to save the child can be heard in the background of the emergency call.

"We need help. She's not breathing at all," a female caller told a 911 dispatcher during the call, on which people are heard in the background exhorting the child to breathe. 

A man is heard saying, "Hurry, hurry, hurry. Please, please, please."

The child died as a result of a fracture to her cervical spine, according to an autopsy conducted by the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office that was introduced at the hearing. 

Unidentified loved ones of the defendant put their heads down as they listen to a recording of a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher instructing a caller, at the mauling scene, on the proper way to perform CPR.

The child also had extensive injuries to her neck, which included puncture wounds. The dogs, according to an Animal Control officer, knocked the girl off the bike she was riding in the alley behind her house.

Also taking the stand Wednesday was a neighbor of Cleveland's, Jesus Reyes Sanchez, who said two of the man's dogs were loose in the alley and went after him in August 2018 as he left home to go to work.

"They were loose. They were moving, running at me," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I grabbed a two by four (and) that's when they backed up."

Assistant prosecuting attorney Barbara Lanning questions a witness.

Sanchez said he called 911 about the dogs. Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Barbara Lanning introduced a record of his call to 911. Sanchez said he also told a man who was standing in front of the home where the dogs lived about the dogs running loose.

Under cross-examination from defense attorney Emmett Greenwood, Sanchez said he did not tell Cleveland himself about the dogs.

The preliminary examination, which could determine whether Cleveland will go trial, is scheduled to continue at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 2 before Wagner.

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