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Originally published Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 2:47 PM

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Witnesses testify in fatal dog attack case

A witness told a judge during a preliminary examination for the owners of two dogs that fatally mauled a jogger that he had to shoot at the animals to make them flee.


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LAPEER, Mich. —

A witness told a judge during a preliminary examination for the owners of two dogs that fatally mauled a jogger that he had to shoot at the animals to make them flee.

Edward Elmer testified Friday in Lapeer District Court that he was mowing his lawn on July 23 when the two cane corsos attacked Craig Sytsma on a Metamora Township road, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press reported.

Elmer said he yelled to his girlfriend, Helen Barwig, to get a gun when one of the dogs looked menacingly at him. The two dogs ran off after he shot at one of them, Elmer said.

Barwig testified that she used paper towel to try to stem Sytsma's bleeding, but the blood "was pouring out, gushing out."

"At one point he said they got an artery and he was going to die," Barwig said.

Sytsma, 46, later died at a hospital. He lived in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, but worked near Metamora Township, 45 miles northwest of Detroit.

Sebastiano Quagliata, 45, and his wife, Valbona Lucaj, 44, are charged with second-degree murder in Sytsma's death. They owned the two dogs and other cane corsos.

Two other people who on two separate occasions were attacked by dogs from the couple's property also testified Friday. Jim Salego, 73, said he was bitten on the leg by one of three dogs last fall.

"Here come these dogs flying down the hill, fast as they could run," Salego told the court. "They tried to circle me. I had my (walking) stick going back and forth trying to get them off me."

Salego said he reported the attack to police.

Veterinarian Sherrey Wallace had previously testified that she considered the two dogs that attacked Sytsma as aggressive and possibly very dangerous. Wallace said she shared her opinion with the owners after the dogs tried to bite her during an exam.

Those cane corsos and a third dog from their property were euthanized after the July 23 attack.

The preliminary examination, which will determine if Quagliata and Lucaj stand trial, is scheduled to resume Sept. 12. They are being held on $500,000 bonds.



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