Saturday, July 21, 1990

Illinois: Notorious Pit Bull Kills Sleeping Baby

ILLINOIS -- Nearly everyone on the street knew the mean, doe-colored pit bull who growled crazily from his owner's back porch and tugged wildly on his leash more like a bronco than a 55-pound dog.

In February he bit a neighbor's foot, and before that he mauled a cat in one of the yards, neighbors said.

"If he was on the porch, you`d just go back downstairs," said Yolanda Applewhite, who was visiting her mother at 1339 W. 112th St. on Wednesday night when the dog lashed out with its final and most tragic attack.

About 9 p.m., Applewhite laid her sleeping 6-month-old daughter, Tionna, onto a couch in the apartment of Tyrone and Deanna Harding, who lived in an upstairs apartment.

The dog, owned by the Hardings, was on the back porch.

Applewhite said Thursday that before the attack, she and Deanna Harding went to the store.

"We were gone 15 or 20 minutes,"` she said. "Tyrone was supposed to be watching her. The dog was locked up.

"When we came back, my baby was almost dead."

The dog repeatedly bit the girl`s head, face and chest, police said, and she died that night at Cook County Hospital.

"We heard the noise, but when you live in a house and hear it all the time you think, `That`s probably Tyrone playing with the dog,'" said Renee Applewhite, the victim`s grandmother, who was still trying to put her thoughts together Thursday morning.

"Then he came down and said, `Renee, Renee, come quick. The dog just bit the baby.`

"A couple of friends ran upstairs," she said. "They wouldn't let me go inside.

"When they brought her down, all I could see was the back of the baby`s shirt, and it was all covered with blood."

"She was a beautiful baby," Applewhite added. "She was really cheerful, somebody you`d like to be around when you`re in a bad mood."

Police said no charges are expected to be filed against Harding, who, following the attack, was quoted by relatives of the victim as saying, "I'm sorry, I`m sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen."

Investigators said they were uncertain how the dog got into the apartment from the porch, and Harding could not be reached for comment by the Tribune Thursday night.

The fatal attack on the Applewhite baby, and other recent incidents involving dogs that were at least part pit bull, have rekindled the debate over pit bulls.

On June 29, a 2-month-old Lansing girl died after she was attacked by a mixed-breed dog.

And Wednesday in Crest Hill, a suburb of Joliet, police killed two dogs they described as pit bulls after the animals attacked and slightly injured a newspaper delivery boy and two other dogs, according to a police spokeswoman. On 112th Street, there were only angry words for the breed.

"A pit bull is a killer, a fighting dog," said Wanda Eggelston, a neighbor. "It`s not supposed to be around human beings."

Renee Applewhite said after she and her family moved into the tiny, two-story frame house in March, "The Hardings were OK. We got along fine as long as they kept the dog upstairs."

By one neighbor`s count, the animal bit three people on the block before it killed Tionna.

After the fatal attack, the Hardings' dog was taken to the David R. Lee Animal Care Facility, 2741 S. Western Ave., where it remained "tremendously aggressive," according to Peter Poholik, executive director of the City Commission for Animal Care and Control.

It was photographed by a police evidence technician, tranquilized and given a fatal dose of phenobarbital just before noon Thursday.

The pit bull was gone.

So was a 6-month-old girl.

(Chicago Tribune -  July 20, 1990)