Devastated father of 9-year-old girl mauled to death by dogs in Detroit takes witness stand

Father of Emma Hernandez faces pit bulls' owner in court

DETROIT – A devastated father whose 9-year-old daughter was mauled to death by three pit bulls in Detroit took the witness stand Wednesday against the dogs' owner.

It's been nearly a month since Emma Hernandez was mauled by the dogs on Detroit's west side. On Wednesday, her father faced the dogs' owner as he relived his daughter's death.

Pierre Cleveland (WDIV)
Pierre Cleveland (WDIV)

Emma was attacked Aug. 19 in the area of Smart Street and Central Avenue.

Her father, Armando Hernandez, explained to the court what he endured that day. The dogs' owner, Pierre Cleveland, is trying to avoid the case moving forward.

"Yeah, that's the guy right there," Hernandez said.

He pointed to his neighbor, Cleveland, and held back tears as he testified how he came to know the man.

A few days before Emma's death, Hernandez blocked Cleveland's fence with plywood because the dogs kept barking and scaring his children, he told the court.

"He came out and told me, 'Why did I put boards against his fence?'" Hernandez said. "I told him the reason why. He said I shouldn't do that because his dogs needed to see out."

Hernandez testified that he will never forget the day the dogs got out of the yard. A child came running to him, telling him about what was going on in a nearby alley.

"I look out in the alleyway and I see a girl's body," Hernandez said. "I jump over my fence, and I picked her up in my arms, and I couldn't believe she was there."

Hernandez said his daughter was bleeding in the alley. Prosecutors said Cleveland was negligent and failed to keep his pit bulls secure.

Hernandez told the court when Cleveland finally came outside, he appeared upset, but wasn't clear about what.

"I told him, 'Your dogs just killed my daughter,'" Hernandez said.

He broke down when testifying about the moment he learned his daughter hadn't survived.

"They pronounced my baby dead," Hernandez said.

"Did the defendant ever try to say anything to you after that?" the prosecutor asked.

"No," Hernandez said.

He told the court that Cleveland never really apologized for what his dogs did. He said Cleveland told him he would shoot the dogs, but at the point, it was too late.

No decision was made Wednesday on whether Cleveland will go to trial. The preliminary hearing will continue in two weeks.

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