This is the article that appeared on the web site for "Court TV." Court TV covered the Davidson murder trial at which I testified. They featured 30 minutes of my testimony (I was on the witness stand for about 2 - 2 1/2 hours). Davidson was found guilty of murder after only 2 hours of deliberation. Her husband will go on trial for murder in March. I hope this trial can serve as a strong message to the irresponsible pet owners who make no effort to take proper care of their animals. Accidents can happen, but this is a case (like so many others) where complete disregard for responsibility resulted in terrible consequences for one family.
If you would like to read my article on the mistakes made by the owners of these rots, read my article titled Rots Kill 11 Year Old Boy - Lessons to be Learned from Many Mistakes.
Kansas v. Sabine Davidson
"The Rottweiler Murder Trial"
In trial that Court TV taped out of Junction City, Kansas in January, a 27-year old woman faces a murder charge in connection with the killing of an 11-year old boy by her Rottweiler dogs.
Sabine Davidson was tried for unintentional second-degree murder and faced between 11 and 51 years in prison. Her husband Jeffrey will be tried on similar charges at a later date. Mrs. Davidson has no prior convictions of any kind. Under Kansas law, the defendant would have to serve 80 percent of the sentence before being paroled.
The victim, Christopher Wilson: Mauled to death by three rottweilers
On the morning of April 24, 1997, Christopher Wilson and his then 8-year old brother, Tramell, were waiting for the school bus at the bus stop across the street from Sabine Davidson's home in Milford, Kansas. While waiting, the two boys were accosted by three of Davidson's four Rottweiler dogs. The two temporarily escaped the dogs by climbing up a tree. Christopher was attacked and killed by the three dogs when he decided to climb down from the tree to see where the dogs had run off to.
When Geary County sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene, they shot and killed the dogs and subsequently arrested their owners, Sabine and Jeffrey Davidson. The Davidsons were initially charged with allowing dangerous animals to run loose but the charges were increased to manslaughter and then to unintentional second-degree murder, a law that went into effect in Kansas in 1993. Prosecutors say that the charges were increased because of evidence that the Davidson's had taught their dogs aspects of "Schutzhund," a German dog training sport which includes teaching dogs how to bite. The state also found evidence that the Davidsons had been previously warned about their dogs roaming free and had done little to address those warnings.
A Typical Spring Morning
It was a fine spring morning in the Milford subdivision known as Country Meadows estates. Sometime around 7:15 a.m., Christopher and Tramell Wilson headed down Mockingbird Road toward the Milford School bus stop in front of Tony Van Buren's house. Van Buren's house is located on Red Bird Road near the corner of Mockingbird Road. The front of the house looks east across Red Bird to the side of the Davidson home and its chain-link fenced backyard. The front of the Davidson house looks north across Mockingbird.
Tramell said that he observed the Davidsons' dogs through the chain-link fence digging under the fence as they had the two previous days. Tramell was thinking "Come on, bus" because he saw that the dogs were digging quickly and aggressively. He saw the Rottweilers running toward him and his brother, Christopher. The boys ran for a tree alongside Van Buren's garage and managed to climb high enough to avoid the dogs. Once the dogs were out of sight, Christopher climbed down the tree and went to find out where the dogs went. The dogs attacked Christopher from behind and inflicted fatal bites around the boy's neck and throat.
The school bus arrived in the aftermath and a busload of children watched in horror as the dogs played a "tug-of-war" with Christopher's body. The arriving authorities shot and killed Chance, a 15-month old male Rottweiler, and Panda, a 6-month old female. Jenny, a 13-month old female Rottweiler, escaped into the woods but was shot and killed several hours later as she was apparently heading back into the neighborhood.
Sabine Davidson was apparently asleep on the living room couch when the incident took place. Davidson told the authorities that she was sick and had taken cold medicine the night before with a sleep aid in it. She awoke at around 3:30 a.m. to hear Chance, Panda and Jenny barking. She let them in the house and stayed up with them until about 6 a.m. when she let them out to the backyard again. She was supposed to get her daughter, Victoria, up for school, but fell back to sleep. She said she never heard the dogs barking outside, the school bus horn or the gunshots fired by the deputies.
An Attack Waiting to Happen?
Sabine insists that the dogs had not been trained for attacking people. But there were earlier incidents reported about the three Rottweilers. On June 14, 1996, neighbor Tony Van Buren, a sergeant with the Kansas Highway Patrol, said he was in front of his house with a friend when he saw two boys riding bikes in the intersection of Red Bird and Mockingbird Roads. He saw three dogs approaching the boys in the street in a menacing manner. Van Buren asked his friend to try to distract the dogs while he ran in the house to grab his service revolver and a baseball bat. When he returned outside, Van Buren yelled at the dogs and they began running back to the Davidson home. Sheriff's Deputy Sonia Gregoire arrived and assisted Van Buren in getting the dogs back to their home. Gregoire left a business card with a case number on the door when she discovered the Davidsons were not home.
Other neighbors also reported incidents in which they got their guns when the Davidson's Rottweilers trespassed on their property, but eventually ran away.
Sabine and her husband, Jeffrey, are each charged with one count of unintentional second-degree murder and endangering a child under the age of 18 (Tramell Wilson), a misdemeanor. Jeffrey's trial is set for March 1998.
To convict Sabine of unintentional second-degree murder, the state has to prove key elements to the jury showing that Sabine acted recklessly and with extreme indifference to the value of human life.
Sabine argues that although many witnesses claim that the Davidsons' dogs were terrifying and ran roughshod throughout the neighborhood, no one went to the Davidsons personally and complained. The sole complaint came from a neighbor annoyed by the dogs defecating on her lawn. The defense also argues that the Davidsons took the prudent step of putting a padlock through a lock hole provided just above the clasp. In most circumstances, that type of lock secures the gate to the anchor pole. The Davidsons took steps reasonable people would take, but they did not count on the dogs' ability to dig under the fence.
Sabine Davidson was convicted of unintentional second-degree murder for the death of Christopher Wilson. She was also convicted of endangering the welfare of a child under 18 and is scheduled to be sentenced March 2, 1998.
Oct. 14, 2007 08:09 AM
The dog wouldn't get off until a former University
of Hawaii football player punched him in the head, Bickerton said.
The boy's mother, Veronica Tomooka, said the lawsuit was never about the money.
"It was strictly to have her see what we went through and have a jury judge her," Tomooka said.
Bereday denied that her dog bit the boy and said afterward that photos of his injuries were faked. She said she plans to appeal.
Bereday had previously been cited once and warned five times to keep her dogs on a leash, according to a 2003 letter from the Hawaiian Humane Society that was used as evidence in the trial.
"It really highlights that the rules that say when a dog is out in public it should be leashed' are there for a very good reason," Bickerton said. "Too many people want to enjoy the pleasure of running with their dogs at the beach and don't stop to think about the risk that poses, particularly to children."
Five days after the attack, Bereday was back on the beach with the same dog when it attacked a 4-year-old girl. She was sentenced to five days in jail and a $2,000 fine. The dog was ordered to be destroyed, but the case is being appealed.
Bereday insists the dog is docile and not aggressive, said her attorney, Paul Yamamura.
"She didn't know the dog could do this," he said.
The family dog is often not properly prepared for the arrival of a newborn resulting in the dog becoming isolated or rehomed.
Carrie Silva Wooddell, a professional dog trainer with over ten years of experience, teaches families how to better understand their dog and demonstrates how to prepare and introduce their dog to their new baby.
In recent years, the number of child dog bites has risen. Keep your baby safe by learning the warning signs to watch for when your dog is around your baby.
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