Relatives of fatally mauled 15-month-old Las Cruces girl charged in pit bull attack
Posted: 09/11/2012 09:47:57 AM MDT
LAS CRUCES — Authorities filed criminal charges this week against the grandparents and father of a 15-month-old girl who was mauled to death in May by the family's pit bull.
On Monday, Las Cruces Police arrested Leticia I. Mesa, 52; her husband Arthur "Arturo" Mesa Sr., 57; and Jesus Mesa, 21 - all residents of 819 Stone Canyon Drive in Las Cruces, where Jesus Mesa's young daughter, Jazilyn Mesa, was fatally mauled on May 8.
After they posted bond, the three family members returned home Tuesday afternoon. They declined to speak with reporters gathered outside the house.
Neighbors said they were shocked by the arrests, which police made after obtaining warrants charging Leticia Mesa with negligent child abuse resulting in death. Arthur Mesa and Jesus Mesa are each charged with one count of possession of a dangerous dog resulting in death.
"I hate to say this, but they deserve it. There's no excuse to have a dog like that around a little baby," said Jose Gomez, a neighbor who described an incident when the pit bull tried going after him, but was restrained by one of the defendants, who had it on a leash.
"I noticed it. He was just about to ready to run at me," Gomez said.
Several neighbors told police that the Mesas' pit bull, named Tyson, had, at various times prior to the attack, shown aggression toward them and their dogs. One neighbor told police that Leticia Mesa had revealed that Tyson previously attacked another dog belonging to the family, tearing off its scalp.
A local veterinarian also told detectives that Tyson had been aggressive in his office, and that staff members had been warned to always muzzle the dog whenever it came into the office, according to court documents.
An elderly neighbor said the pit bull once attacked him and his German shepherd, but told police that the Mesas pleaded with him not to report the incident. Another neighbor reported warning Leticia Mesa to get better control of the dog before something bad happened, but said she laughed off those concerns, according to court documents.
The baby girl's mother had also been worried about the pit bull being close to her daughter, and demanded that Arthur and Leticia Mesa keep the dog locked in a kennel whenever the girl visited. Arthur and Leticia Mesa agreed, but police say they did not keep that promise, and that Leticia Mesa thought the young girl's mother was being overprotective, according to court documents.
Shortly before 11:30 a.m. on May 8, LCPD officers responded to the Mesa residence after a neighbor reported hearing Leticia Mesa screaming for help.
The neighbor, 69-year-old Barry Snyder, said he saw the pit bull attacking the young girl and that Leticia Mesa was trying to cover the child. Snyder retrieved a .45-caliber handgun from his home, called 911, entered the Mesas' backyard and fired at the pit bull, which started running at him, police said.
Police said the initial shot missed the dog and instead struck Leticia Mesa's thigh and foot.
Snyder fired four more rounds at the pit bull as it ran to a side yard. Snyder followed after the dog, and fired two more rounds, killing the 90-pound pit bull, police said.
Another neighbor performed CPR on Jazilyn Mesa, who was rushed to MountainView Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces, where she later died. An autopsy showed she had bitten 12 to 15 times all over her body, with six puncture wounds to the back of her skull.
The girl, who only weighed 23 pounds, had injuries to her arms and feet consistent with having been dragged across the ground. She also had brain swelling consistent with shaken baby syndrome - the result of being shaken by the dog - according to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator's report.
Leticia Mesa, who was treated for her wounds at University Medical Center of El Paso, was interviewed twice by police detectives, who said she gave inconsistent statements about the events leading up to the attack.
Leticia Mesa first told police that the dog was drinking water, and that it had perhaps attacked the girl when she walked up to its dish bowl. She also said that she wrapped herself around the girl, and then either fell or was dragged into a hole underneath a trampoline in the backyard.
Interviewed by police three days later, Leticia Mesa told detectives that she was carrying the baby, and that the pit bull attacked when she bent over to allow the girl to touch the water in the dog's bowl, according to a police report.
Leticia Mesa said she yelled at the dog, and hit it with rocks to try to loosen its grip. Police said her account was still inconsistent with the child's injuries, due to the fact that Leticia Mesa was not injured, even though she claimed to be holding the girl during the attack.
Detectives said Leticia Mesa admitted to them that, despite promises to the girl's mother, she continued to allow her grandchildren to be outside without locking the dog in a kennel. Arthur and Leticia Mesa told police that they had never seen the dog act in an aggressive manner, and added that they were training him to be sociable, according to court documents.
Jesus Mesa also told police that the pit bull had never attacked another animal or person, and that he had never seen the dog behave aggressively. However, questioned further by police, Jesus Mesa admitted that Tyson had injured another pit bull during a fight, and had also attacked an elderly man who had walked past his house, according to court documents.
(9:47 a.m. update)
LAS CRUCES — The grandparents and father of a 15-month-old girl who in May was mauled by the family's pit bull have been arrested and charged in the fatal dog attack.
Leticia I. Mesa, 52, Arthur "Arturo" Mesa Sr., 57, and Jesus Mesa, 21, all residents of 819 Stone Canyon Dr. in Las Cruces, were arrested Monday evening on warrants. Leticia Mesa, the paternal grandmother of Jazilyn Nevaeh Mesa who died in May following the dog attack, is charged with negligent child abuse resulting in death.
Arthur Mesa Sr. and Jesus Mesa, the young girl's grandfather and father, respectively, are charged with one count each of possession of a dangerous dog resulting in death.
The death of Jazilyn Mesa has been under investigation by Las Cruces Police detectives and prosecutors from the Third Judicial District Attorney's Office since the May 8 dog attack.
Shortly before 11:30 a.m. on May 8, LCPD officers were called to the Mesa's residence by a neighbor who reported hearing Leticia Mesa screaming for help. The neighbor, 69-year-old Barry Snyder, saw that the 2-year-old dog named Tyson was attacking the girl and that Leticia Mesa was trying to cover the child.
Snyder retrieved a .45 caliber handgun from his home, called 911 and went to the aid of the girl and her grandmother. Detectives said Snyder entered the backyard and fired the first shot as the pit bull aggressively closed distance on him. The initial shot is believed to have missed the dog and instead struck Leticia Mesa's thigh and foot.
Snyder fired four more rounds at Tyson as it ran to a side yard. Snyder followed Tyson and fired two more rounds which proved to be fatal for the 90 pound pit bull.
Jazilyn Mesa was rushed to Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces where she succumbed to her injuries. Leticia Mesa was transported to University Medical Center of El Paso.
Investigators said they learned from interviewing several neighbors that the Mesa's pit bull, at various times prior to the attack, showed signs of aggression toward them or their dogs. One neighbor who had concerns about the pit bull's propensity for violence told detectives that Leticia Mesa revealed that Tyson had previously attacked another dog that also belonged to the Mesa's, leaving it with a severe scalp injury.
A veterinarian who over the years cared for several dogs that belonged to the Mesa family told detectives that Tyson had showed signs of aggression and had to be muzzled the one time it was treated at the office.
Jazilyn Mesa's mother and maternal grandparents also expressed concern with the pit bull and, prior to the young girl's Jan. 26, 2011, birth, and asked the Mesa family to get rid of the dog, police said.
When the Mesa family refused to get rid of the dog, Jazilyn's mother demanded that Tyson not be allowed anywhere near her daughter when the young girl visited the Mesa's residence, and that the dog be kenneled when Jazilyn was visiting the home, police said.
Detectives learned that Jazilyn's mother — who did not reside at the Mesa's home — was unaware of the dog's history of violence, but was concerned for her daughter's safety because of Tyson's size, and because the dog appeared to be rambunctious and untrained.
Investigators interviewed Leticia Mesa at least twice, and said that her statements regarding the events that led to the fatal attack were inconsistent. Detectives said they also found inconsistencies in Leticia Mesa's statements on whether she knew that the dog had shown signs of aggression prior to the fatal attack.
The New Mexico Medical Investigator's Office ruled that Jazilyn Mesa, who weighed only 23 pounds, received multiple injuries to her head, face, torso, arms and legs. All of the injuries were consistent with those of a dog attack.
Leticia Mesa was booked into the Dona Ana County Detention Center with bond set at $15,000. Bond for Arturo Mesa Sr. and Jesus Mesa was set at $10,000 each.