Owner of dogs that mauled 9-year-old girl charged with murder

Witnesses tried to fend off the dogs

By Theresa Waldrop and Carma Hassan, CNN
Detroit Police via CNN

Pierre Cleveland has been charged in connection with the death of 9-year-old Emma Hernandez.

DETROIT (CNN) - The owner of three dogs that mauled a 9-year-old Detroit girl to death this week has been charged with second-degree murder, the prosecutor's office said.

Pierre Cleveland, 33, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter and dangerous animal causing death, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office said in a release.

Emma Hernandez was riding her bike near her home in southwest Detroit when she was attacked by three loose pit bulls. She was rushed to the hospital, but died from the injuries.

Cleveland, a neighbor of the victim, allegedly "left the dogs that he knew were dangerous, loose and unsecured" in his backyard while he made a trip to a store, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office said in a news release Thursday.

"It is horrible to imagine what Emma went through as she was being mauled to death by vicious dogs allegedly owned by the defendant," Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. "It is high time that the City of Detroit shines a light on the owners of these dangerous animals that sometimes roam and wreak serious havoc - none worse than what happened here."

Investigators found that the yard's fence was "damaged and not secure," and a side door to the garage, which led to the alley where the attack took place, was open.

Cleveland does not yet have an appointed attorney, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said.

Witnesses tried to fend off the dogs. One of them threw bricks at them, and another shot at them, Detroit police said.

Emma's father got into an argument last week with Cleveland about the condition of the fencing for the dogs, Emma's aunt Claudia Stapleton told CNN affiliate WDIV.

Cleveland is being held on a $2 million bond, the prosecutor's office said. He was arraigned Thursday and is expected to be in court August 30 for a probable cause conference.

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