There was something about the blue scarf tied around Kaitlyn Hassard's neck that cost the 6-year-old her life.
Shortly after the girl returned to her Manorville, N.Y., home from kindergarten Tuesday, the family's 70-pound golden retriever began playfully nipping at Kaitlyn's scarf, Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said.
The dog, named Jesse, apparently grabbed hold of Kaitlyn's scarf and dragged her in the backyard, strangling her, Fitzpatrick said. Kaitlyn, who weighed about 40 pounds, was slim for her age, Fitzpatrick said, and it did not look like the dog attacked her. "It was playing with her," he said.
The Hassards' family friend James Talamini, 34, read a prepared statement.
"Kaitlyn Dorothy Hassard was an energetic and beautiful young girl who always had a smile on her face, a skip in her step and a heart full of love," he said.
Fitzpatrick said that before the tragedy, Kaitlyn's mother had ushered the dog into the backyard after it began to play with the scarf around Kaitlyn's neck. Later, Kaitlyn asked for permission to play in the backyard with Jesse, and her mother obliged, Fitzpatrick said.
About 4:30 p.m., when her 11-year-old brother Kevin went to get Kaitlyn, he found her unconscious on the lawn, the 3-foot-long scarf tangled around the girl's neck, Fitzpatrick said.
Their mother, Korey Hassard, a registered nurse, tried to perform CPR on Kaitlyn. But the girl was pronounced dead about an hour later at the hospital, Fitzpatrick said.
Dr. Marc J. Shapiro, chief of general surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital, said it would have taken about eight minutes to put the girl in a state from which she couldn't be revived.
At Kaitlyn's school, students and staff mourned, discussing their grief with counselors and social workers.
Robin Barbera, the principal at Kaitlyn's school, remembered watching Kaitlyn walk to the bus after school Tuesday.
Jesse, who lived with the Hassards for about a year, was taken to an animal shelter. "The family didn't want the dog in the house, which is understandable," Fitzpatrick said.