- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2005

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. (AP) — A county prosecutor said he will seek an involuntary manslaughter charge against the owner of three pit bulls that fatally mauled an elderly woman last week — the first case of its kind in Virginia.

Commonwealth’s Attorney William F. Neely said Sunday night that he will ask a county grand jury on Monday to indict Deanna H. Large on the felony count in the death of Dorothy Sullivan, who was killed as she walked her dog in her Partlow yard.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Mr. Neely said he also will seek three misdemeanor counts of allowing a dangerous dog to run at large.

Mrs. Sullivan, 82, and her small dog, Buttons, were attacked and killed by three wandering pit bulls last Tuesday. All three dogs have since been killed.

Miss Large, 36, admitted owning one of the dogs, but Mr. Neely said the ensuing investigation revealed that she owned all three and had been warned to keep them under better control.

Mr. Neely said there has never been an involuntary manslaughter case in the state based on similar circumstances.

“But I think the facts of this case meets the definition of common-law manslaughter,” Mr. Neely told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. “And if ever a case merited for a prosecutor to push the envelope, this is the one.”

Similar charges have been brought elsewhere in the United States.

In San Francisco, a couple whose dog fatally mauled a neighbor were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2002.

Involuntary manslaughter means someone either caused a death in the performance of an unlawful act or in the improper performance of a lawful act.

Mr. Neely said he thinks the case against Miss Large meets both criteria.

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