OCT. 3, 2014 UPDATE: Alex Jackson was sentenced today to 15 years to life in prison. “His actions in this case show that he has a nearly psychopathic disregard for the lives and well-being of others,” said Deputy District Attorney Ryan Williams in his sentencing memo, according to the Associated Press.
Pamela Devitt, 63, was mauled by the dogs as she went for a walk in May 2013. She was the first person killed by Pit Bulls in the history of Los Angeles County, and Jackson was the first dog owner in the county to face murder charges.
During the trial, Jackson claimed he didn’t realize his dogs were dangerous.
“I feel terrible about it. This isn’t anything that I orchestrated or planned, that I wanted to have happen,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The jury wasn’t buying it.
Witnesses said Jackson’s dogs would often jump over his fence and roam the neighborhood. Back in May 2013, Lt. John Corina of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department told the Los Angeles Times that Jackson’s dogs had attacked people or horses at least three times so far that year alone. In 2006, four of his dogs were ordered to be euthanized after they attacked emus.
Devitt’s savage mauling brought plenty of negative attention to Pit Bulls. L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich proposed overturning California’s prohibition of breed bans (his spokesman, Tony Bell, actually called Pit Bulls “killing machines”). In protest, hundreds of people — including me and i Love Dogs staffers Martha Smith and Sonya Simpkins — attended an anti-BSL rally outside City Hall that was organized by “Pit Boss” star Shorty Rossi. Antonovich dropped the idea.
Even Ben Devitt, Pamela’s husband of more than 40 years, told local news sources after the attack that he didn’t blame the dogs — he blamed their irresponsible owner.
“I have no animosity toward Pit Bulls and my wife had no animosity – we realize it’s people that are responsible for their animals,” he told KABC-TV News at the time.
While about 30 people nationwide die each year from dog bites, murder charges against the dogs’ owners have been very rare in the past — but that is changing.
Jackson is the third dog owner to be convicted of murder over the past 16 years. In the most famous case, in 2001 a jury convicted San Francisco attorney Marjorie Knoller of second-degree murder after her two Presa Canarios killed her neighbor, Dianne Whipple.
Photo credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department