Criminal Justice

Owners of 100-pound dogs charged with 2nd-degree murder in fatal attack on jogger


A history of allegedly allowing two aggressive 100-pound dogs to run loose resulted in second-degree murder charges for a Michigan couple after a jogger reportedly was killed by the dogs last month.

If convicted, Valbona Lucaj, 44, and Sebastiano Quagliata, 45, could get as much as life in prison. The couple also face a charge of harboring a dangerous animal, resulting in death, in the Lapeer County case. That felony charge carries as much as 15 years upon conviction, according to the Detroit Free Press and the Flint Journal. The dogs were Cane Corsos, a Italian breed whose name derives from the Latin word for “guardian” or “protector,” according to the American Kennel Club.

Another Detroit Free Press article provides further details about the claimed facts that led prosecutors to pursue the unusual criminal case. It says two neighbors had been bitten by the dogs within months of when 46-year-old Craig Sytsma was mauled to death and some had started arming themselves against potential attack.

Although the dogs were kept in a chain-link enclosure, they often tunneled underneath it, the Free Press says. After the attack on Sytsma, authorities found a gap under the fence through which the dogs apparently may have escaped.

Geoffrey Petz, whose grandmother lived next door to the Lacaj-Quagliata home, told police he started carrying a gun when he went over to mow her lawn, to protect himself against the dogs.

At last report, the defendants were being held in lieu of $500,000 bail. The dogs involved in the attack have been put down.

Earlier this year, in a similar case, a felony murder case was filed against a California man whose four loose pit bulls fatally mauled a 63-year-old woman as she was jogging, biting her between 100 and 200 times, reports the Associated Press.

The underlying felony with which Alex Jackson, 29, is charged in the death of Pamela Devitt is owner negligence of an animal causing death.

See also:

ABAJournal.com (2008): “Ex-Lawyer Again Convicted of Murder in Neighbor’s Dog-Mauling Death”

ABAJournal.com (2008): “Ex-Lawyer Sentenced to 15 Years to Life in Dog Mauling”

Detroit Free Press: “Lapeer prosecutor says he would have acted if told of prior dog attacks”

MLive.com: “Three people needed to hold down each dog from deadly Lapeer mauling, veterinarian testifies”

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