California man charged with murder in fatal pit bull mauling

LOS ANGELES Thu May 30, 2013 6:20pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The owner of four pit bulls that ferociously attacked and killed a woman as she walked or jogged near her Southern California home has been charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon, Los Angeles prosecutors said on Thursday.

Alex Donald Jackson, 29, was arrested a day after the May 9 attack in the community of Littlerock when Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies searching for the dogs involved said they had found a marijuana "grow operation" at his home.

Eight dogs were seized from Jackson's house, including six pit bulls and two mixed breeds and some were found with blood on their coats and muzzles, said Lieutenant John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's homicide division.

Corina said forensic DNA tests later established that the blood was that of the victim, Pamela Maria Devitt.

Devitt was walking or jogging when a pack of pit bulls attacked her on the side of a road in Littlerock, in the sparsely populated high desert of Southern California about 65 miles east of Los Angeles.

Devitt, 63, died in an ambulance of blood loss after suffering 150 to 200 puncture wounds, Corina said.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Samantha MacDonald said authorities had received at least three other reports of Jackson's pit bulls attacking people since January.

Jackson was also charged with cultivating marijuana and other drug charges and was being held on $1 million bail.

He was scheduled for arraignment on Friday on the attack charges and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted at trial.

Murder charges following a fatal dog attack are rare.

In 2001, Diane Whipple, a 33-year-old top collegiate lacrosse player and coach, was fatally mauled by two Presa Canarios - a dog breed that can grow as large as 130 lbs (60 kg) - in a hallway outside her San Francisco apartment.

The dog's owners, a married couple, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and the wife was found guilty of second-degree murder.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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