By Tamas Mondovics
The death of 4-year-old Riverview resident Logan Sheppard, after being mauled by two pit bulls, prompted local and state officials to review whether charges should be filed against the mother or any caregiver involved in the incident.
As a result, a meeting of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives and the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office late last month concluded that there would be no charges filed in the incident.
In his letter to detectives, State Attorney Mark Ober stated that after reviewing the case it was determined that the evidence does not prove the criminal intent required for the charge of child neglect or the charge of aggravated manslaughter.
In part, Ober stated, “The crime of child neglect requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a caregiver neglected a child willfully or through culpable negligence…….The term ‘willfully’ has been defined as meaning ‘knowingly, intentionally and purposely.’”
Ober also stated, “While it may be argued that the caregivers were negligent in supervising the child, mere negligence is insufficient to sustain a charge of child neglect…..Instead the evidence indicates that the child’s death was a tragic event brought on by a mistaken belief that the dogs had been secured in a pen in the yard. The fact that the dogs were able to escape the dog pen was unknown at the time of the tragic event.”
According to HCSO deputies, Sheppard and his mother were visiting his uncle, Billy Fredericks Sr. in Riverview, who crated the two pit bulls before the visit. When they arrived at the residence, Sheppard was given some ice cream.
While the adults were in another room, they heard screams and came out to discover the little boy was not in the house.
Two Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies were approximately 100 yards away at the time conducting an unrelated traffic stop when they heard the screams, ran to the residence and discovered Sheppard in the front yard with the two pit bulls standing over him.
Frederick Sr. immediately crated the dogs, but was reportedly too late as Sheppard was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Fredericks Sr. surrendered the two adult female pit bulls for destruction. The dogs had no prior history of aggression, according to animal control.
The tragic event sheds light of the reality of dog bite fatalities.
According to DogsBite.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and public education Website about dangerous dog breeds, in the first five months of 2013, pit bulls inflicted 93 percent of all dog bite fatalities, well above the average of 60 percent from 2005 to 2012.
Another strong reminder of dog bite realities was the incident in May, involving three pit bulls that viciously attacked and killed a 4-year-old boy in Felton, Del. as reportedly his mother and two nearby repairmen tried to fend the dogs off of the young child.
Dogsbite.org went on to report that 32 U.S. dog bite-related fatalities occurred in 2013 and that pit bulls contributed to 78 percent (25) of these deaths.
While pit bulls are powerful animals, the organization emphasized that they are not the only ones that bite. Rottweilers are considered the second most lethal dog breed.
In the 9-year period from 2005 to 2013, pit bulls killed 176 Americans and accounted for 62 percent of the total recorded deaths (283). Combined, pit bulls and Rottweiler’s accounted for 74 percent of these deaths.
Annual data from 2013 shows that more than half of the fatality victims were children 7-years and younger, and 44 percent were adults, 25-years and older.
Of the total children killed by dogs in 2013, 61 percent were ages 4-years and younger.
To learn more about dog attack fatalities visit www.dogsbite.org.