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Trial continues for man accused of murder in fatal mauling by dogs

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Witnesses recall encounters with dogs belonging to man on trial for mauling death of woman

On the last two Sundays in April 2013, Adalberto Farias diverged from his typical riding routes, taking him and his National Show Horse, Prince, along a dirt road that brought him by Alex Donald Jackson's Littlerock home. 

As Farias neared, some dogs escaped from Jackson's enclosed yard and came at him, he said. In both instances, Farias testified Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, he was able to rein Prince away, unscathed. 

But he never took that route home again.

"They were acting aggressive," he told a jury charged with determining if Jackson, 31, is guilty of murder in a May 9, 2013, dog attack. 

By the end of the trial's third day, four horseback riders had testified to being chased or attacked by Jackson's dogs in the five months leading up to the fatal attack on Pamela Devitt, 63. Devitt suffered between 150 and 200 puncture wounds. 

In addition to the horseback riders, a mail carrier said dogs from Jackson's home chased after his vehicle. Neighbors requested their mailbox be moved away from Jackson's fence out of concern that the dogs would approach as they retrieved their mail -- although they downplayed the severity of the dogs' aggressiveness when pressed by prosecutors in court Friday. 

In contrast to the aggressive portrait of dogs that belonged to Jackson painted by some witnesses, animal control Officer Cornelius Chisom said he responded to a call at Jackson's home and found a pair of light brown pit bulls he considered to be nonthreatening. 

Chisom was sent to Jackson's home on Jan. 22, 2013, after two horseback riders reported being attacked by a pack of dogs about a week earlier. 

"I was petting them. They appeared to be OK. Very friendly," Chisom recalled. 

Officials have previously said Jackson owned eight dogs, six of them pit bulls. Four of the pit bulls were allegedly involved in the attack on Devitt. 

Fencing surrounding Jackson's home appeared secure, and Jackson told Chisom there weren't any more dogs on the property. Citations were issued to Jackson for not having the dogs licensed and not having them spayed or neutered, Chisom said. 

But the investigation into that incident stalled when one of the horseback riders involved in the incident became uncooperative, said Chisom, who was one of more than a dozen animal control officials expected to testify in the trial. 

During opening statements Wednesday, prosecutors said animal control officials "dropped the ball" on Jackson's case prior to the fatal May 2013 attack. 

In addition to murder, Jackson is also charged with cultivating marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, possession for sale of a controlled substance and assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a January 2013 incident in which he is accused of throwing rocks at a rider as he was being attacked by dogs. 

Key to determining whether Jackson is guilty of Devitt's murder is whether he had knowledge his dogs were dangerous. Prosecutors said there were several warning signs that preceded the fatal attack.

Al Kim, Jackson's defense attorney, has taken issue with the prosecution's depiction of Jackson. In reality, according to Kim, Jackson cared for strays in an area notoriously known as a dumping ground for unwanted animals. 

Outside the courtroom Friday, Jackson's brother, Vincent Jackson, 32, said his brother was contrite. 

"He's obviously very remorseful about everything that's happened," Vincent Jackson said. "He never wanted anything like this to happen, and if he had known any of this would happen, it wouldn't have been a question of whether or not to keep the dogs." 

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout the Southland, follow @debbietruong or email her at debbie.truong@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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