Murder charged in Calif. dog pack mauling death

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Southern California man was arrested Thursday on a felony murder warrant stemming from the mauling death of a jogger by a pack of dogs earlier this month.

The warrant against Alex Jackson, 29, also charges him with owner negligence, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

Jackson was originally arrested shortly after the May 9 death of Pamela Devitt, 63, who was out for a jog when she was attacked by four pit bulls in Palmdale.

Jackson was released on bail while DNA testing was conducted to determine if his dogs carried out the attack.

Since January, authorities received at least three other reports of Jackson’s dogs attacking other people, according to Robeson.

Jackson is also charged with several charges related to growing marijuana.

It was unclear whether he had hired an attorney. No number was listed for Jackson in the Palmdale area.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s authorities said a driver saw pit bulls attacking Devitt in the high desert community of Littlerock. The driver called 911 and honked her horn to try to get the dogs to stop.

An arriving deputy saw a single dog still attacking the runner and tried to chase it off, Lt. John Corina said. The dog ran off into the desert, then turned around and attacked the deputy, who took a shot at the animal before it ran off.

Hours later, sheriff’s and animal control officials served a search warrant on Jackson’s home near the site of the attack and took away eight dogs, six pit bulls and two mixed-breeds.

The dogs were kept under quarantine for rabies observation at a Lancaster shelter. Four of the pit bulls seized were believed to have attacked Devitt.

Her husband told KCAL-TV he blamed the dogs’ owners for what happened.

“I do not blame the dogs. I don’t blame pit bulls,” Ben Devitt said. “I blame people who don’t take responsibility for their animals.”

Not all of the dogs are licensed, spayed or neutered as required by county and state law, said Marcia Mayeda, the county’s animal control director.

Dog bit-related fatalities are rare — anywhere from 30 to 35 each year — but there are more cases where criminal charges such as endangerment are being filed against owners, said Donald Cleary, a spokesman with the National Canine Research Council. Cleary could recall only three other instances, two in California and one in Georgia, where murder charges were filed.

In one of the state’s most famous dog mauling cases, a San Francisco husband and wife were charged in the death of a neighbor in 2001.

Marjorie Knoller received a 15-years-to-life sentence after a jury found her guilty of second-degree murder. In rejecting her appeal, the California Supreme Court ruled that Knoller acted with a conscious disregard for human life when her 140-pound Presa Canario escaped and killed Diane Whipple in an apartment building hallway.

Knoller’s husband, Noel, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Cleary said in most cases the dogs involved in attacks are not family pets but animals who are often isolated and don’t get positive human interaction.

“If a dog has seriously hurt or killed someone, you have to look to the owner and the owner should be held accountable on some level,” he said. “There’s no reason we have to tolerate that kind of behavior.”

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Associated Press writer Greg Risling contributed to this report.

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