Wednesday, April 20, 2005

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — A woman charged in the death of an 82-year-old woman attacked by a pack of roaming pit bulls pleaded not guilty yesterday.

A grand jury indicted Deanna Large, 36, of Partlow, after the March 8 attack on charges of involuntary manslaughter and three misdemeanor counts of allowing a dangerous dog to run loose.

If convicted on all counts, Miss Large faces up to 13 years in prison.

Miss Large refused to comment after her arraignment in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court. Relatives of the victim, Dorothy Sullivan, wept and embraced outside the courthouse.

Judge William Ledbetter Jr. appointed Eugene Frost to represent Miss Large and set an Aug. 16 trial date.

Mrs. Sullivan was out for a walk in her front yard with her little dog Buttons, a Shih Tzu, when they were attacked by three unleashed pit bulls. Buttons also was killed.

Mrs. Sullivan’s daughter found her mother’s body when she stopped by for a visit soon after the attack.

“This was a tragic, horrible death,” Sullivan family attorney Ed McNelis said yesterday. “The family just hopes that justice is done.”

The family members were too upset to talk to reporters, Mr. McNelis said.

It’s not the first time Miss Large — free on $10,000 bond — has been in trouble with the law.

In 1998, she was convicted of aggravated sexual battery of a 12-year-old boy, according to court records. Miss Large was sentenced to three years in prison, with two years and eight months suspended.

Residents of this rural, woodsy community between the District and Richmond told the Associated Press that the roaming pit bulls have terrorized the neighborhood for years.

Mr. McNelis said Mrs. Sullivan had called authorities before to complain that the dogs had chased her into her house.

Although Miss Large admitted owning one of the dogs, Commonwealth’s Attorney William Neely has said an investigation revealed she owned all three animals and had been warned to keep them under better control.

Authorities fatally shot two of the pit bulls, and a third was captured and euthanized.

This is the second time prosecutors in Virginia have sought involuntary manslaughter charges in a fatal dog mauling.

Mr. Neely yesterday called the Large case ?uncharted territory.?

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