Animal Attack Files Special ReportSpecial Report forwarde by AAF Correspondant: Ceylon Blackwell, IIIAnimal Attack Files Special Report
from The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

HOME   Rottweiler kills 3-year-old girl

November 5, 1999

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By Bartholomew Sullivan and Bill Dries

The Commercial Appeal

PROCTOR, Ark. - Three-year-old Jessica Bice didn't have a chance.

She and her mother had gone to their backyard Thursday morning to take a dish of water to a chained Rottweiler when the 140-pound dog lunged, grabbing Jessica by the neck and swinging her from side to side, said Crittenden County Sheriff's investigator Jason Oliver.

She was pronounced dead at the end of a helicopter journey from her home southwest of West Memphis to Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis.

Jessica's mother, Melissa Coles, 28, fought with the dog and got it to release its grip for a moment, but was eventually driven off by the vicious animal.

She ran screaming to neighbor Sherry Lassiter's house and called 911. It was 8:15 a.m.

"It looked like someone had taken a razor blade or a knife and mangled that little thing," said Wayne Lassiter, who was visiting his daughter's home in an unincorporated area off Ark. 147.

Arkansas State Police Officer Sam Koons arrived first. He said Coles was standing in the front yard of the house.

"She was pretty frantic. She was yelling and had blood all over her," he said. The dog had bitten Coles in the hand, he said.

Koons ran to the backyard where he said he saw the girl lying face down in a mud puddle in front of a doghouse.

"He was somewhat in a guarded position over her," Koons said, referring to the dog, which was standing at the end of its chain and growling at Koons. "I put three rounds into him. A couple hit him in the neck. He ran into the dog house 2 feet from the girl."

About that time, Crittenden County Sheriff's Deputy Kent Earhart drove up and got a rifle from his patrol car, Koons said. "He put one round into the shoulder or his head. He still barked," Koons said.

The two then moved cautiously toward the dog house and turned it over so the entrance was facing the ground and the wounded dog couldn't get out.

Koons and Earhart then immediately began first aid as they waited for EMTs and a helicopter to airlift the child to Le Bonheur.

Oliver said the child had no pulse or other vital signs when the journey to Memphis began.

"If you print anything, print this: that the EMTs worked very, very hard. At one point, they did get her back breathing on her own very briefly. But the injuries were too bad,'' Oliver said.

The dog ripped up both the front and back of her neck and created another gash near her shoulder blades, Oliver said.

The child was pronounced dead minutes after the helicopter arrived at Le Bonheur.

Oliver, clearly angry at the death, said Rottweilers and children don't mix. He said the people living with vicious dogs and children "need to use that lump 3 feet above their ass.''

The dog was owned by John Edwards, Oliver said. Edwards lives in the house with Coles, her two children and Lonnie Hampton, the owner of the house.

"A Rottweiler is known for being vicious,'' Oliver said. "It was a bad judgment call on the mother's part, and that's something she's going to have to live with.''

But it's unlikely any criminal charges will result from the tragedy because, although Crittenden County does have a vicious dog ordinance, the owner was in compliance because the dog was on a 15-foot chain, Oliver said.

Wayne Lassiter said he had complained to the Sheriff's Department before about a pit bull dog at the same house. But he said deputies told him they could take no action because the dog had not attacked anyone.

Hampton, Coles's boyfriend, said the dog never displayed any signs of violence before Thursday. The Rottweiler had been at the house only since Edwards moved in with it a month ago, which was also about the same time Coles and her children, including Jessica, moved in, he said.

Hampton said Coles was coping well with the loss despite the immediate shock. Family members were gathering to comfort her.

"She's being real strong right now at the moment," Hampton said late Thursday. "We're all doing all right. We're up. There's not a whole lot we can do right now."

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