The man charged with murder after his dogs mauled to death a 63-year-old Littlerock woman had four of his pit bulls destroyed in 2006 after they attacked emus, a sheriff's official said.
That attack was one of several incidents that prompted Los Angeles County prosecutors to file a murder charge against Alex Jackson, whose four pit bulls allegedly attacked retired office manager Pamela Devitt on May 9, inflicting 150 to 200 puncture wounds that led to her death.
Jackson appeared briefly in an Antelope Valley courtroom on Friday. He delayed entering a plea until a hearing next month.
Prosecutor Robert Dufour said the deadly incident warranted such serious charges because Jackson's dogs had attacked others before mauling Devitt.
L.A. County sheriff’s homicide Lt. John Corina said authorities were aware of at least three incidents in which Jackson’s dogs attacked people or horses in the last five months and at least one other incident in 2006.
In the 2006 case, four pit bulls belonging to Jackson attacked some emus in Littlerock and were ordered destroyed by authorities, Corina said.
On Jan. 13, some of his dogs allegedly attacked a horse with a rider. Jackson also threw a rock at the rider, authorities said. Jackson has now been charged with assault with a deadly weapon in connection with that case.
About a week later, Jackson was cited for having dogs without a license by county Animal Control, Corina said. He said dogs belonging to Jackson were subsequently involved in two other attacks against people on horses in April and May.
"We believe there was evidence that he was aware the dogs were vicious and they have attacked before and he knew of the danger they posed," Jane Robison, a district attorney's spokeswoman said.
Jackson, who authorities say was growing marijuana in his home, was arrested Thursday and is being held in lieu of $1,050,000 bail.
Devitt died en route to a hospital, and the attack sparked outrage in the neighborhood and beyond. Sheriff's officials said detectives found Devitt's blood on the muzzle and coats of four of Jackson's eight dogs.
"There's no way I can get the brutality of this out of my head," Devitt's husband, Ben Devitt, told The Times. "The fact that there's animals out there roaming around with that kind of killer instinct, it's just kind of something I can't shake."
Animal control officials took custody of Jackson's dogs.
Murder cases involving dog attacks remain extremely rare, despite an increasing willingness by prosecutors throughout the country to file other types of charges, such as manslaughter and child endangerment, said Donald Cleary, a spokesman for the National Canine Research Council. The organization, which tracks dog attack cases, documented 34 dog-related fatalities last year. Six resulted in prosecutions; none involved murder charges.