- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

DENVER — Prosecutors expect to file charges later this week against the owners of three pit bulls that fatally mauled a woman and attacked two persons in Elbert County, Colo.

“I’ll tell you, there’s going to be charges,” said one Elbert County law-enforcement official of the attacks that occurred Sunday. “It just depends on how serious they’re going to be.”

The dogs’ owners, one of whom was identified by neighbors as Jacqueline McCuen, faces charges ranging from criminally negligent homicide, a felony punishable by up to three years in prison, to ownership of a dangerous dog, a misdemeanor, said Michael Knight, a spokesman for the state’s 18th Judicial District.

The Elbert County sheriff’s office has had an officer watch Mrs. McCuen’s home during the investigation, which is expected to conclude at the end of the week, Undersheriff Jim Underwood said.

The concern was that Mrs. McCuen might try to flee. “Obviously, that’s a risk,” he said.

Residents said the dogs had menaced the rural community, about 50 miles southeast of Denver, since the McCuens moved in about a year ago.

In April, Mrs. McCuen, 32, was charged with a misdemeanor after one of the dogs bit a woman. Her court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 7, Mr. Knight said.

On Sunday, the three pit bulls attacked and killed Jennifer Brooke, 40, who had left her house on foot at about 7 a.m. to tend to her horses at her barn. The autopsy report showed that she bled to death.

Her ranch partner, 24-year-old Bjorn Osmunsen, was injured by the dogs a few hours later after he became concerned about her absence and went searching. He escaped by running back into the house.

At about 11 a.m., the dogs appeared at the home of Clifford Lynn Baker, who was attacked as he stepped out the front door. The dogs tried to drag him to the ground and bit his hands and arms before he was able to scramble into his pick-up truck, according to local news reports.

His cries for help were answered by his 16-year-old son Cody, who fired two rounds of birdshots from a double-barreled shotgun, incapacitating the two female dogs. Mr. Baker managed to escape into his home and grab a firearm, which he used to shoot the largest dog, an 85-pound male.

An Elbert County deputy finished off the dogs with a pistol. County health officials are examining the remains to check for rabies.

“These dogs weren’t like dogs; they were like monsters,” Mr. Baker said. “The way I see it, we got rid of some murderers.”

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