The owner of four pit bulls has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the mauling death of a 4-year-old Detroit boy.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Geneke Lyons, 42, was convicted Friday of the lesser charges of involuntary manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death.
— FOX6 News (@fox6now) December 7, 2015
Fox2 News reports that Lyons had been charged with second-degree murder, but that charge was dismissed by Wayne County Circuit Judge James Callahan the day before the jury deliberated, a courtroom official said.
The fatal pit bull attack, in which little Xavier Strickland was killed, occurred in December. In nine minutes of video captured by surveillance footage, the mother and her son were seen walking to a neighborhood school when the pit bulls attacked, pulling the child away from his mother. The video was shown to the jury during the weeklong trial.
After the verdict was announced, Callahan explained why Lyons was convicted of the lesser charge.
“In the court’s opinion, the defendant was overcharged… to begin with.”
Lyons was released on bond pending his sentencing on June 30 because, as Lyons said his crimes did not pose a threat to the community. He was also told to have no contact with dogs.
According to Maria Miller, a Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman, prosecutors said they were unhappy with the decision.
“We believe that our proofs showed proof beyond a reasonable doubt for second-degree murder.”
The charge of manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of $7,500.
The defense argued that the fatal mauling of Xavier was an accident, but the jury concluded that Lyons was accountable for the death of the boy by failing to secure his dogs.
Lucille Strickland, the boy’s mother, told the jurors of the horror having the dogs pull her son from her hand and drag him underneath a fence to maul the boy as she helplessly watched.
“That will never leave my eyes. Never leave my mind.”
— WOOD TV8 (@WOODTV) December 8, 2015
Strickland tried desperately to save her child and tried to shield him with her body. She was bitten on her ear, leg, and back, she told the jurors. As she was getting up, the dogs grabbed her son and dragged him under the fence out of her reach.
“They were so strong. They just snatched him.”
According to trial testimony, neighbors came running when they heard Xavier’s mother screaming and discovered dogs circling the boy. They tried to help by throwing objects at the pack of pit bulls, but to no avail. Police officers began shooting at the animals once they arrived.
Two of the officers picked up the conscious boy and transported him to a hospital, where he later died. The dogs reportedly inflicted more than 90 puncture wounds on little Xavier during the attack.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) January 8, 2016
Lyons is also facing an ongoing civil lawsuit for damages that was filed on behalf of Xavier’s family.
Mark Bernstein, who represents the estate of Xavier, said his team of attorneys will not rest until justice has been served for the little boy and his family.
“This is just the beginning of problems for this defendant. This is by far the most egregious set of facts I’ve seen in my career.”
According to reports, three of the pit bulls were killed at the scene. A fourth was later euthanized.
[Image via Shutterstock/Revaphoto]