Misdemeanor mauling death charge called “disturbing”


By Cornelius Frolik and Mark Gokavi - Dayton Daily News (TNS)



DAYTON — The brother of a Dayton man mauled to death by a dog said Friday he is glad someone has been charged in the violent death, but it “kind of feels like a slap in the face” that it is only a misdemeanor count.

More than 16 months after 60-year-old Maurice Brown’s death, a 28-year-old city man has been charged with a misdemeanor crime.

This week, the city of Dayton prosecutor’s office filed a first-degree misdemeanor charge of control of dogs against Anthony Austin, whose address in court records is 345 Middle St.

A criminal complaint filed in Dayton Municipal Court lists Austin, the Middle Street address, the April 25, 2017, date and that the defendant “did unlawfully, or having the care, custody, or control of a dog, suffer or permit the dog to bite or otherwise cause physical harm to another person or domestic animal.”

Brown died of blood loss on April 25, 2017, after being attacked by a pit bull that broke free of its restraint while in the backyard of the home at 345 Middle St.

David Brown, Maurice Brown’s brother, said, “A misdemeanor for a death — that’s disturbing.”

Dayton city prosecutor Stephanie Cook agreed but lamented that the applicable law’s maximum sentence is six months in jail.

“I’m pleased that we’re able to have evidence to be able to go forward and file a formal charge,” Cook said. “It seems woefully inadequate when you’re dealing with a fatality to be charging somebody with a misdemeanor … that’s where we’re at right now.”

Austin is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 10.

Police shot and killed the dog, and three other dogs that were never claimed were removed from the yard. Two dogs were euthanized this year, and one was adopted.

After the attack, authorities said they were working to determine who owned the dogs and what type of criminal charges were warranted.

Cook had previously told the Dayton Daily News that Austin was being considered for charges after law enforcement determined no felony could be charged.

Dayton police Lt. Kimberly Hill, who used to oversee the department’s Professional Standards Bureau, was disciplined for not submitting internal investigations in time for consideration of discipline for the responding police officers.

A commander’s review of a related investigation of the dog-mauling case said officers Daniel Hartings and Scott Pendley “failed to render immediate assistance and/or first aid.” Hartings retired in 2017.

The city of Dayton has refused to provide requested police dash-cam footage, citing an open criminal investigation.

David Brown said his family is reaching out to an attorney in the hopes of filing a civil lawsuit against the owner of the dog.

He said his family hopes to obtain a significant judgment to send the message that people need to be responsible for their dogs, especially when they are large and “dangerous.”

“People want these dogs and they should deal with the consequences of owning them should this happen,” he said.

Local state legislators tried but failed to pass the “Klonda Richey Act” named for the Dayton woman who died in 2014 after being mauled by two dogs.

The owners of the dogs that killed Richey — Andrew Nason and Julie Custer — pleaded no contest to misdemeanor failure to control dogs and both served jail time.

Cook said the Austin case is similar in some ways to the Richey one.

“There are different reasons maybe (why neither case resulted in a felony charge), but ultimately, this is what we’re left with and it’s very similar to the Klonda Richey case,” she said.

Cook said prosecutors will work in conjunction with Brown’s family members: “Six months for somebody’s life and to die the way that they died. That’s a horrible way to die.”

According to Montgomery County real estate records, the 345 Middle St. property belongs to Callie Walker, who died at the age of 92 in July. This newspaper could not immediately determine her relationship to Austin.

Court and county animal resource center records show that address has been the site of other dog-related issues. In 2008 and again in 2012, a 48-year-old man named Wade Austin was cited at 345 Middle St. for failure to license or register multiple pit bulls.

In January 2015, an Animal Resource Center investigator visited 345 Middle St. after receiving an anonymous tip about a dog that died from cold weather, according to the center’s investigative records.

In November, Anthony Austin was indicted on felony charges of aggravated burglary, felonious assault and attempted burglary. His sentencing in that case also is set for Sept. 10. Messages seeking comment were left with Austin and his felony case attorney.

Some neighbors previously told this newspaper that the dog that killed Brown was kept chained up outside around the clock.

Joe Ross, the co-president of the Jane Reece Neighborhood Association who lives nearby, said the dog seemed poorly socialized. Ross said he just as easily could have been the mauling victim because he cleans trash out of the alley by the site of the attack.

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By Cornelius Frolik and Mark Gokavi

Dayton Daily News (TNS)

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