Sunday, January 30, 2005

Illinois: Lydia Chaplin, 14, cause of death has been determined

ILLINOIS -- An autopsy Friday on the body of a 14-year-old Erie girl revealed a frightening tale about how the Erie High School freshman died.

Lydia Elaine Chaplin died of hypothermia after being attacked during the night along a rural county road by a pack of dogs that included three pit bulls and one mixed breed, Whiteside County Sheriff Roger Schipper said Friday night.

Schipper said Lydia suffered several serious injuries due to "multiple dog bites," and that she attempted to "get away from the area where the dogs attacked her."

Her mother and stepfather, Becky and Tony Lopez, filed a missing person's report about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, after discovering she wasn't in her bed.

A Whiteside County sheriff's deputy found the girl's body about 7:30 a.m. Thursday in a ditch on Keeley Road, about a half-mile from the family's home in rural Erie. She was found by the same deputy who went to the home after the parents called, driving along a different road than he had taken to get there.

The dogs involved were impounded Friday morning by the Whiteside County Sheriff's Department with the assistance of Whiteside County Animal Control, Schipper said. Their current location or names of the owner or owners were not released.

A coroner's inquest is pending.

Initially, the sheriff's department believed she had been struck by a vehicle. The Davenport and Bettendorf police departments also became involved, talking to friends of Lydia that she may have planned to meet and examining vehicles.

A few pieces of yellow police tape were all that remained Friday where Lydia's body was found along Keeley Road. The icy gravel road leads the way to a few barns and farm fields near Elston Road, but no homes sit along that stretch.

Schipper said the girl's mother and stepfather are having "a rough, rough time with this."

"It's a terrible, terrible thing," he said. "She hasn't even lived her life yet. She's only 14 years of age. It's not good at all."

(QC Times - Jan 29, 2005)