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Murder charges possible in fatal mauling of 2-year-old, police say

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An uncle and grandmother of a 2-year-old boy mauled to death by a group of pit bull-mix dogs in Colton could eventually be charged with murder, police said Tuesday.

Marco Zamudio, 23, and Eustulia Zamudio, 42, were arrested on suspicion of child endangerment resulting in death hours after 2-year-old Samuel Zamudio, of Rialto, was attacked Monday afternoon in a backyard in Colton by five dogs, described as pit bull mixes.

Marco was responsible for taking care of his nephew at the time, said Colton police Det. Ray Mendez. Eustulia was the homeowner and the dogs belonged to her, he said.

The attack took place about 5 p.m. Samuel's godmother, Erica Vega, told the media that there had never been any issues with the dogs before. She said she was home at the time of the attack.

“To me, the dogs were not aggressive,” Vega told reporters. “They were not fighters.”

Samuel had two brothers, ages 1 and 7.

Samuel’s uncle was supposed to be babysitting him when the toddler climbed out of a window into the backyard, where he was attacked. The boy’s family was looking for him for about 20 minutes before they found him severely injured in the backyard, KABC-TV reported.

Relatives called 911 and the boy was rushed to a local hospital, where he died about an hour later. The child was "suffering from extensive wounds to the upper body," police said in a statement.

Though there were more than five dogs at the home, only five were believed to be involved in the killing, Mendez said. The dogs are being held at a San Bernardino animal shelter.

Animals involved in attacks on humans are typically euthanized, Mendez said. Investigators were expected to examine the dogs Tuesday to determine if they were the ones that killed Samuel.

It’s at least the second dog attack in Colton this year. In April, officers shot a pit bull after it attacked its owner and killed another dog.

A month later, a fatal attack in the Antelope Valley increased pressure on lawmakers to hold dog owners accountable for such incidents. Residents there have long complained of stray dogs roaming their desert neighborhoods.

Pamela Devitt, 63, was taking her morning walk near her Littlerock home on May 9 when she was attacked by a pack of pit bulls. The owner of the dogs, Alex Donald Jackson, 29, was charged with murder in her death. Authorities said his animals had previously attacked horses, emus and humans.

Devitt’s death prompted a beefed-up response in the Antelope Valley, as county supervisors approved funding to bring more animal control officers and a local call center to the area. The supervisors also unanimously agreed this month to strengthen county regulations against vicious dogs.

Under the new rules, “potentially dangerous” dogs now include animals that have attacked livestock -- not just people or pets. In a report to supervisors, county animal control director Marcia Mayeda said livestock attacks were “often a precursor of attacks on pets or people.”

Owners of dogs deemed potentially dangerous may be ordered to purchase homeowners insurance, put the animals through obedience training, keep them in a secured yard or pen, or keep them on the property unless muzzled and leashed.

In Riverside County, supervisors are proposing an ordinance that would require all pit bulls and pit bull mixes in unincorporated cities to be sterilized.

San Bernardino County prosecutors will take up the Zamudios’ cases Wednesday, police said.

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna

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