Wednesday, November 11, 1987

Illinois: Pit Bull Attack Linked To Boy's 'Feud' With Family

ILLINOIS -- A 16-year-old Justice boy who allegedly ordered two pit bull terriers to attack a 10-year-old neighbor girl had been "feuding" with the girl`s parents for several years and had been reported to police for harassing the family, police in the southwest suburb said Monday.

The family and the boy "have had persistent problems," Justice Police Cpl. Steven Kooper said. "They were feuding. They had been fighting for some time."

The family and the boy's family live across 79th Avenue from each other, and the Sunday afternoon dog attack occurred about 50 yards from their two homes, police said.

Kooper testified at a hearing Monday in Cook County Juvenile Court that the boy had denied ordering the dogs to attack, saying the dogs got loose accidentally while he was walking them. The dogs belonged to friends of the boy`s family, police said.

The girl, Brandy Hopper, underwent 2-1/2 hours of surgery Sunday night at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn to repair damage from the mauling. She was listed in good condition Monday, hospital officials said.

The dogs chewed out a 3-by-6-inch section of the girl's left thigh, the girl's parents and police said, and left deep bite marks in her right thigh.

A plastic surgeon sewed some of the torn flesh on the girl's left thigh back into place, the girl's mother, Sandra Merkle, said. But Merkle said her daughter may need skin grafts.

"It was such a big rip. It's like the shape of that dog's jaw," she said.

Justice police said Monday that they have responded to frequent complaints that the boy had harassed the family and threatened Brandy`s siblings.

Merkle said the boy's actions were unprovoked. "He's just a neighborhood punk," she said. "He does it all over town. His parents know we've been fighting."

At the Monday court appearance, testimony showed that the boy has an extensive criminal record for theft, burglary and criminal damage to property dating back to age 11.

Also in court, Kooper said Justice police have documented problems between the boy and the family for at least five years.

The boy was charged Sunday with aggravated battery for allegedly ordering the dogs to attack Brandy. Police said witnesses, including Merkle, heard the boy shout "sic her" to the dogs and saw him drop the two leashes on which he was holding the animals when he saw Brandy approaching.

Brandy was returning home with groceries she had bought at a neighborhood store, said her stepfather, Rusty Merkle.

Associate Judge Charles Barish ordered the boy held in the Juvenile Detention Center at least until Friday, when he is to appear with a lawyer. State`s attorneys argued that the boy should be held because of the brutality of the attack.

The owners of the dogs, Jerry and Kimberly Roth, of Bridgeview, have been charged with obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor, for allegedly disobeying police orders by taking the dogs into their house after the attack and allowing the boy to hide there, Kooper said.

Kooper said the Roths told police that they had given the boy, a family friend, permission to walk the dogs Sunday afternoon. The Roths live about three blocks from where the attack occurred.

Relatives of the Roths said Monday that the couple was declining to comment about the incident.

The dogs are being held at the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge. Allen Glisch, the manager there, said the dogs were being watched for signs of rabies.

(Chicago Tribune - November 10, 1987)