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Man faces murder charges in Detroit girl's dog mauling death

Emma Hernandez poses, smiling, next to statue of a man in a hat
Courtesy of Esmeralda Samano

The alleged owner of three dogs that attacked and killed a nine-year-old Detroit girl was arraigned on murder charges Thursday.

Pierre Cleveland was Emma Hernandez’s neighbor in southwest Detroit. The girl’s father and other neighbors had expressed concerned about Cleveland’s aggressive dogs, with at least one call logged to Detroit Animal Control last year.

Hernandez was riding her bike in the alley behind her home when the dogs leaped over what prosecutors call a flimsy back fence and fatally mauled her.

The charges allege that Cleveland, “left the dogs that he knew were dangerous, loose and unsecured in the backyard of his home while he went to a nearby store. Investigation of the location revealed that the fence that lined the yard was damaged and not secure.  There was also a garage side door that was open and led to the alley where the victim was attacked.”

“It is horrible to imagine what Emma went through as she was being mauled to death by vicious dogs allegedly owned by the defendant,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. “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.”

Cleveland faces charges of second-degree murder, having a dangerous animal causing death, and involuntary manslaughter.

A not guilty plea was entered on Cleveland’s behalf during the arraignment. He was given a $2 million cash bond.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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