Dog owners charged with second-degree murder - WNEM TV 5

Dog owners charged with second-degree murder

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A husband and wife stood separately in front of a judge Friday morning.

They were both charged with second-degree murder and possession of a dangerous animal causing death. 

Lapeer County prosecutors said Sebastiano Quaglianta and Valbona Lugaj own the two cane corsos involved in the fatal mauling attack of Craig Sytsma last week, but the couple's attorney said the charges are too harsh.

"I think a second-degree murder charge is over charged. I think it's an attempt to show off in front of the media. And I think they've got some problems with their animal control office that they're trying to cover up," said Jason Malkiewicz Quaglianta's attorney.

Bond was set at $500,000 a piece for each of the defendants. Now the reason it was set so high is because the prosecutor feels there could be a flight risk involved because the couple's legal status in the country is in question.

"My understanding, there is some immigration questions, if they are going to be legal or not legal. So my understanding right now, they are legal. However, I don't know the status, if that's going to change or what's going to happen on that," said Mike Hodges, assistant prosecuting attorney.

That uncertainty and past allegations about the dogs played a part in the charges and bond.

"That's what we're looking at here. The extent of what was known and not known about these animals. So that is part of the bigger reason for the heavier charges here is the extent and the history of these animals," Hodges said.

The couple's next date in court is Aug. 8.

The couple have agreed to have the animals euthanized.

Lucaj and Quaglianta signed the agreement with prosecutors Friday. The agreement said the dogs and a third cane corso will be killed as soon as possible.

The dogs have been in custody along with eight puppies. The puppies will be offered to an animal rescue group.

"Hate is not genetic, it's a learned behavior," said Philip Hogendyk, with Bruised but not Broken Canine Rescue.

Hogendyk specializes in big dogs. He runs the Bruised but not Broken Canine Rescue in Grand Blanc. He said the Lapeer County prosecutor made the right choice with the cane corsos involved in the fatal mauling attack last week.

"I'm happy, very happy with the choice they made to be honest," he said. "And local rescue groups applaud the prosecutors decision not to euthanize those puppies, because they say dogs are the products of their environment."

"I think this litter at this age, they have not learned. You know if you study dog behavior they haven't gotten to that point were they've learned how to be mean yet, they're just learning how to be dogs at this point," he said.

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