Dog attack kills 9-year-old girl in Detroit: Pet owner will stand trial

33-year-old man faces second-degree murder charge

The owner of the dogs, 33-year-old Pierre Cleveland, was charged with second-degree murder and was back in court Wednesday.

DETROIT – A man will stand trial in the death of a 9-year-old girl who was mauled by three dogs in Southwest Detroit.

Emma Hernandez was killed in the attack on Aug. 19. She was riding her bicycle in the area of Central Avenue and Smart Street when the three pit bulls escaped from a neighbor's yard, police said.

The owner of the dogs, 33-year-old Pierre Cleveland, was charged with second-degree murder and was back in court Wednesday. He was bound over Wednesday to Wayne County Circuit Court on second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a dangerous animal causing death charges.

Cleveland said he normally kept the dogs inside but they escaped from his yard that day.

"The dogs grabbed her by the leg and pulled her, and started eating her," said a neighbor in court. 

Cleveland's arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 16.He was released from the Wayne County Jail after he posted his $20,000 bond.

Pierre Cleveland (WDIV)

Cleveland was emotional during Wednesday's hearing, expressing his remorse. He said he gone to cash a check and returned to find the chaos.

"Came back home. Neighbor ran up to me and said your dogs bit somebody. I ran to my yard and saw people giving CPR to a girl," he said.

He said he never used the dogs for fighting, and he never wanted them to bite anyone.

His bond was originally set at $2 million, but a judge lowered that bond to $20,000, with a requirement that he must wear a GPS monitor.

Emma Hernandez

Statement from prosecutor

When charges were issued in August, here's what the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office said about the attack:

"The victim was riding her bicycle with her 13-year-old brother when she was fatally attacked by three pit bulls.  A male neighbor threw bricks at the dogs in an attempt to stop them from attacking the child.  The child was observed with multiple bite wounds on her body.  Medics were called to the scene, rendered medical assistance, and transported the victim to a local hospital where she was pronounced deceased.

Defendant Cleveland was the next door neighbor and owner of the three pit bulls that attacked the victim. On Aug. 19, 2019, before the fatal attack, it is alleged that the defendant left the dogs that he knew were dangerous, loose and unsecured in the backyard of his home while he went to a nearby store. Investigation of the location revealed that the fence that lined the yard was damaged and not secure. There was also a garage side door that was open and led to the alley where the victim was attacked. Further facts and evidence in the case will be presented in court at the preliminary examination."

Man charged in girl's dog mauling death free on bond -- watch:

The owner of dogs that mauled a girl to death is free on bond.

About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.