Dog Owners Facing Murder Charges After Multiple Dog Attacks
Dog owners Valbona Lucaj and Sebastiano Quagliata are facing second-degree murder charges after their dogs, two Cane Corsos, mauled and killed 46-year-old Craig Sytsma as he was jogging in Metamora Township in Lapeer County on the evening of July 23rd.
The fatal attack came after the dogs in question had been involved in multiple other attacks in the area. In 2012, the dogs attacked 25-year-old April Smith, who later successfully sued for $20,000. 73-year-old Jim Salego was attacked by the dogs in the fall of 2013. Salego testified in court on August 29th that when Quagliata saw the dogs attacking him, Quagliata tried to offer him money to not call the police. Salego refused the bribe. Maria Gialdi of Rochester, MI was attacked by the dogs in February 2014, leaving her with wounds requiring 50 stitches. Neighbors had become so afraid of the dogs, many of them felt the need to carry guns while working outside. The dogs’ veterinarian testified that she was barely able to treat the dogs when they were brought into her clinic three months before Sytsma’s death due to their highly aggressive nature.
This is an uncommon and extreme case with multiple dog bite victims. Had this attack been the first instance of the dogs’ vicious behaviors, it’s unlikely the owners would be facing murder charges. However, given the long, documented history of aggressive behavior, the stakes are higher as the owners were well aware of their dogs’ behavior issues and have repeatedly failed to keep them adequately restrained.
The two dogs, in addition to another adult dog found in the home, were euthanized in August. Eight other puppies were taken from the home and given to a rescue group. Lucaj and Quagliata have been held in Lapeer County Jail as they are unable to post the $500,000 bond. An attorney representing Lucaj and Quagliata had asked the judge to reduce the bond to $100,000, but the judge refused. In addition to the second-degree murder charges, the couple had been facing deportation since 2005, and the judge was concerned they would leave the country if the bond was reduced.