An elderly Florida man was eaten alive by his neighbors’ dogs, and his body was so thoroughly dismembered that authorities estimate only about 30 percent of his body was left, WFTV Orlando is reporting.
83-year-old Michael Downing lived in the Franklin Arms apartment complex in Jacksonville. Next door to the apartment complex lived his neighbor, Lephus Felton, whose four dogs were kept in pens in his yard. Witnesses say the fence was not well-maintained and that it was full of holes big enough for Felton’s dogs to slip through.
At about 4:00 P.M. on Friday, the dogs slipped through a hole in the fence and attacked the elderly man.
Neighbor Mackenzie Partin believes the dogs dragged the man back through or under the fence and into Felton’s yard because that’s where what was left of Downing’s dismembered body was found.
“They had dragged him underneath, back up underneath, to eat on him… By far it’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. There was only 30 percent left of his body probably.”
Neighbor Mark Jones told WJXT (Jacksonville) that it was only a matter of time before the dogs attacked someone.
“I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time. I am almost 63 years old and I have seen a lot of horrific stuff. And it was terrible, to say the least.”
— Lorena Inclán (@LorenaANjax) August 22, 2016
For years, neighbors had been complaining to local authorities about the dogs, identified by The Florida Times-Union as all being three to five-years-old. One of the dogs is a Rottweiler, and the other three are mixed-breed. In fact, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had been called to the address at least 14 times in the past few years, including at least one animal complaint. The anonymous tipster had told authorities the dogs were kept in small cages, lived in filth, and that Felton regular beat them with his fists. An animal welfare investigator found that the dogs appeared healthy, and no action was taken.
Following the attack, the dogs were taken to a local animal control facility. JSO officials hope to have dogs declared dangerous and then humanely euthanized.
Felton, for his part, insists that his dogs are not vicious. He believes that the elderly victim had been antagonizing his dogs.
“He had to be antagonizing my dogs to be pulled under there… even the police say, because he got pulled underneath. So he had to stick his hands under there, so that’s when they grabbed him, I guess. My dogs ain’t no vicious dogs. They’re vicious to protect this yard. That’s their job. It’s like the police have dogs to protect them, you know? That’s how they’re trained.”
Felton also claims to have been in contact with “people in Washington” who are going to help him get his dogs back.
Neighbors describe the victim, Michael Downing, as a well-loved figure around the apartment complex. Though somewhat frail from a recent stroke, he was still active, sharp, and well-educated, said Jones.
“He always had a big smile on his face.”
Neighbor Randy Hill said he and his other neighbors would miss the friend they all called “Mr. Mike.”
“He was a cool guy all the way. Oh man. We are going to miss the heck out of Mike. We are going to miss the heck out of Mike.”
What remains of Downing’s body will be cremated, and his ashes scattered in the Atlantic Ocean. It is unclear, meanwhile, if the owner of the dogs that ate the elderly man will face any criminal charges.
[Image via Shutterstock/Volodymyr Burdiak]