A dog owner charged with murder in the mauling death last year of a woman in northern Los Angeles County testified Wednesday that he had no idea his pit bulls were capable of such an act.
Alex Jackson, 31, told the Lancaster court that he had an affinity for stray dogs that were abandoned in his hometown of Littlerock, a small desert community in the Antelope Valley.
"I just wanted to give them a hand to where they didn't have to be out there on their own," he said about the dogs he had picked up over the years. "It would prevent them from having to feel as if they have to fend for themselves."
Jackson testified he had never been a reckless pet owner.
"I never had any inclination or indication to believe prior to this happening that this was even remotely possible," he said.
Whether Jackson knew the dogs were dangerous is central to determining whether he is guilty of second-degree murder in the May 2013 death of Pamela Devitt. Devitt, 63, suffered about 200 wounds in the attack by four of Jackson's pit bulls.
Prosecutors have said that his dogs were involved in at least seven other altercations in 18 months leading up to the attack on Devitt. Jackson disregarded repeated warnings that his dogs would jump the fence that enclosed his frontyard and attack passersby, prosecutors said earlier in the trial.
Dressed in a navy button-down shirt and black slacks, Jackson said he had never encouraged his dogs to fight with each other or with people and that he played with them in a joyful manner. "They have a loving side to them," he said.
He admitted cultivating marijuana, saying he smoked part of the stash himself and sold the rest to others, and growing magic mushrooms for his own use.
But he testified he would have gotten rid of the four pit bulls had he known they were capable of killing.
"I feel terrible about it. This isn't anything that I orchestrated or planned, that I wanted to have happen," he said.
When Deputy Dist. Atty Ryan Williams brought up an incident in which Jackson's dogs chased two horseback riders, the defendant said one of the riders had attempted to knock him over.
"I didn't think that my dogs behaved inappropriately because the position we were put in — him trying to hit me with his horse — pretty much exacerbated the situation," Jackson said.
The trial that began last week has been dotted with gruesome details, but on Wednesday jurors were provided with new details about Devitt's death when a medical examiner for the Los Angeles County coroner's office testified.
Using photos of Devitt's body, Dr. James Ribe pointed out that the former office manager had sustained deep cuts and abrasions on her limbs, noting that many of the wounds occurred in pairs because of the animals' incisors.
Devitt's ears were torn and patches of skin were missing. Nearly all of her hair was gone and her skull was exposed.
"Most of her scalp had been torn off almost completely," Ribe said.
One juror turned away from the images, shook her head and wiped her eyes.
Ribe said Devitt had died from blood loss. While the average adult has about five quarts of blood, he said, Devitt's body had "a few spoonfuls."