DEADLY DOG ATTACK IN METAMORA TOWNSHIP
- Mauling victim’s last words: ‘I’m bleeding out, I’m dying’ say Lapeer investigation reports
- Eight puppies will go to Texas rescue group after adult dogs fatally mauled jogger in Lapeer County
- Three dogs euthanized following fatal mauling of a jogger in Lapeer
- Deadly dog mauling: A timeline of events for fatal attack in Lapeer County
- Murder charges against Lapeer County couple rare in deadly dog mauling, expert says
LAPEER, MI – With one neighbor applying first aid and another keeping two dogs away from Craig Sytsma’s body, the 46-year-old man told the two his first name before saying his last words: “I’m bleeding out, I’m dying,” say investigators’ reports.
Now, Sebastiano Quagliata and Valbona Lucaj, owners of the two Cane Corsos that mauled and killed Sytsma, are facing second-degree murder charges and remain in the Lapeer County Jail on a $500,000 bond.
Police reports obtained by The Flint Journal-MLive.com through the Freedom of Information Act detail both the July 23 incident that resulted in Sytsma’s death and the past of the two suspects as they bred and sold Cane Corsos including:
- One person who was talking to Quagliata about purchasing a puppy told police, “Quagliata made reference that if anyone gets on his property, they don’t leave.”
- After one of the two dogs was shot, they both ran to the woods but came back to approach Sytsma as a neighbor and first responder was doing CPR.
- Quagliata told police the dogs had gotten out of a cage numerous times prior to the July 23 incident.
The preliminary examinations for Quagliata and Lucaj are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 15, in front of Judge Laura Barnard.
The night of the mauling
Sytsma, a colon cancer survivor, was running along Thomas Road in Metamora Township when he passed a man mowing his lawn.
According to a Metamora Township Police Department incident report, the two waved and as the man who was mowing made another pass on his lawn, he noticed the two Cane Corsos, which belonged to his neighbor, were attacking the jogger on the ground. After attempting to get the dogs off, the man ran back inside his house to get his .44 Magnum.
While inside, he told his girlfriend, a first responder, what was going on outside. The two ran outside, where the man fired a warning shot into the air.
The dogs looked up and continued to attack before the man shot a dog near its front leg and the dogs left.
As the dogs ran into nearby woods, he shot two more times at the dogs but missed both times.
As the woman began first aid on Sytsma, he told her his first name and stated,” I’m bleeding out, I’m dying,” say police reports.
While CPR was performed on Sytsma, the dogs came out of the woods again and the woman retreated until they were scared off again. The report did not detail how the dogs were scared off again.
After initial first response, the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department talked with Quagliata, whose wife, Lucaj, and children were away in Boston for a family reunion.
Quagliata told investigators that the dogs were put in a kennel at about 6:10 a.m. that morning while he worked all afternoon.
He told investigators the dogs had dug under the kennel several times in the past.
“Quatliata stated that the dogs dig under the kennel and escape(ed),” the report stated. “Quatliata stated that this occurred numerous times prior (would not give a number when asked) and that was how they were escaping from the kennel.”
After some consultation, Quagliata chose to give the two adult dogs, named Toni and Julia, to Lapeer County Animal Control, but didn’t not answer any more questions from investigators.
His attorney, Jason Malkiewicz, could not be reached for comment.
Lucaj’s attorney, Ryan Streefkirk, said that his major concern in the case is her culpability, because she was in Boston at the time.
“It’s not going to be a quick prosecution,” he said. “I anticipate that it’s going to go piece by piece by piece.”
During deputies’ search of the kennel, they found a 6-foot-tall kennel, near a row of pine trees in the back yard, where a choke chain was inside.
Investigators sought out several prior people who purchased puppies from the couple and succeeded in talking with several.
One man said he purchased a dog roughly seven weeks before the incident and, according to police reports, Quagliata made several statements to him including:
- “Quagliata would not refer to himself as a breeder but stated that he (had) been doing this for 10 years.”
- “Quagliata stated that these were aggressive dogs and he raised them to be very aggressive.”
- After an inquiry to see the parents of the puppies, “Quagliata declined the request stating that nobody can get close to them. Quatliata made reference that if anyone gets on his property, they don’t leave.”
Another couple arrived at the residence of Quagliata and Lucaj to purchase a puppy, only to find an adult male Cane Corso wandering around the corner of the house freely as one of the interested parties knocked on the front door.
“The dog was not secured to a chain but roaming free in the yard,” the report said. “The dog appeared very intimidating while standing at the corner of the house.”
Ultimately, the dog left for the back yard and, although the couple purchased a puppy the day before the July 23 incident, the report said they are debating on if they will keep the puppy and are sending it to receive an aggression test.
In another interview in the reports, on July 3 two friends went to pick up a puppy. While one was concerned about the fact that they could not pet the father of the dogs, Quagliata told both of them that the male dog, Toni, was allowed to roam free.
“Quagliata stated that he allows the male to roam the yard freely,” the report stated.
However, at least one person said there was no discussion of aggression and the dogs acted natural around her when she arrived.
She purchased a female Cane Corso in the first weeks of June, paying $1,000.
“There was limited conversation that transpired and nothing about the dogs being aggressive or anything of that nature,” the report said, adding the owners of the dog haven’t seen any aggressive tendencies.
In the days after the attack, Toni and Juila, the dogs in the incident were taken from the house and later, through a warrant, police took Princess, a female Cane Corso who is more than a year old, and eight puppies ranging from two to four months old were taken from the house.
The adult dogs had been involved in two other attacks where Lapeer County Animal Control had stepped in.
During those times, the dogs were quarantined for 10 days in both incidents.
Ultimately Toni, Julia and Princess were euthanized, but the puppies are being sent to a Cane Corso rescue group in Texas.
At least one other neighbor, who was taking care of his grandmother’s house after she died had an incident with the dogs too.
In a statement to Metamora Township Police, the neighbor said the dogs were aggressive toward him.
From then on, he said, he carried a weapon as he mowed, out of fear. Several times, the propane company refused to deliver because the dogs were aggressive in the grandmother’s yard.
“Last summer, on more than one occasion, I walked out of my grandmother’s pole barn to be surprised by a large dog,” he wrote. “He/she would be growling, showing its teeth and acting very aggressive toward me.”