Galesburg, IL – Ashiya Ferguson, the owner of the pit bull that killed 7-year-old Ryan Maxwell earlier this month, told reporters that she wants to die.
Lot of details out there regarding what led to this tragic incident, but still no word on what triggered the actual attack. After reading several articles (all of which will be linked) here is what is known so far.
On March 1st, Sarah Mead let her 7-year-old son, Ryan Maxwell, go roller skating for the first time – not knowing it would be his last. He would be spending the night at the home of Ashiya Ferguson, the wife of Sarah’s brother, along with Ashiya’s two boys, after going roller skating. The next day, Ryan was outside playing in Ashiya’s backyard when he was viciously mauled to death by the woman’s pit bull.
“He got so excited. He was excited to go skating and excited to spend the night with some other kids,” Sarah said, sobbing. “I let him go, and then this happened.”
The events that happened up to the attack have been mostly detailed by Ashiya and her mother, Susan, who were home when the attack occured. The morning after enjoying themselves at the skating rink and sleeping over, Ryan and Ashiya’s two boys – ages 7 and 8, went into the backyard to play.
Also in the backyard was Ghost, a pit bull Ashiya had raised since it was a puppy. The dog has been around her own children all their lives and she says she has never seen the dog act aggressively. The dog was chained to a porch at the back of the yard, but on this day, Ghost got loose and went after Ryan.
“Our youngest came in screaming,” said Susan. She and Ashiya ran outside and found Ghost had a hold of Ryan’s throat just outside the sliding glass doors. “I don’t know how it happened,” Susan said. “I don’t know why. I don’t know if the boys let the dog off the chain or if the chain came loose. But the chain didn’t reach from the back deck to our back doors.”
The women said nothing they did would get Ghost off the boy. “I couldn’t believe it was Ghost,” said Ashiya. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. I hit him. I kicked him. We hit him with shovels and the heavy butt of a BB gun. Oh God, it was so horrible. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop it.”
As her boys continued trying to get the dog off of Ryan, police were called. They were able to get Ghost off the boy, but had to shoot and kill Ghost after the dog turned on them. Ryan was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. Sarah was at the hospital with her parents when hospital staff were unable to revive her son, and she had to give them permission to stop.
Ashiya has not returned to work since the incident. “I look at my own children, and I feel guilty. I want to go back and trade places with Ryan. I want to die instead,” she said. She added that she’s having a hard time telling if she is awake or “something else.”
Ryan’s family is devastated as well, as you can expect. “Ryan was learning the keyboard, and I was learning the bass. We always said we were going to have our band,” said Ryan’s grandfather, Tom Mead. “He was my buddy. I did everything with him.”
They say Ryan loved baseball and football, watched the show “Hunting For Bigfoot,” and telling knock-knock jokes. “If I didn’t have another son, if he didn’t need me, I would have probably committed suicide by now,” Sarah said.
“He was such a gentle soul and his smile would light up a room. That’s what makes it so horrible. He loved dogs”, said Paula Johnson, the boy’s great-aunt. “I want to know where the adults were. I have a lot of questions, I really do, but I’m going to wait to honor Ryan and send him off with the grace he deserves and then, we will be asking a lot of questions.”
Galesburg police have some questions as well, and are investigating why Ghost went after Ryan, and how it got loose in the first place. Investigators say they have interviewed Ashiya and are reviewing possible criminal charges.
Usually when we post these kind of stories, we have little to no info on the dog involved aside from the owners stating, as Ashiya has, that they couldn’t believe their dog would do this; that the dog was never vicious. In the case of Ghost, we actually have a bit of information – information that may play into whether or not anyone will face charges over Ryan’s death.
Ashiya and her boyfriend, Jereme Carter, bought Ghost as a puppy and have raised it along with her own children. While she says the dog was never vicious, neighbors said they were scared of the animal. “That dog was big and powerful, and there was no way to defend yourself against it,” one neighbor said. “It looked like it didn’t matter if you had a fence or not.”
Another neighbor said they were so afraid of the dog, they avoided the street where it resided. “The big pit bull was scary,” he said. “When you walked on Whiting, you could see it snap to attention and run out the length of the chain he was attached to. It was frightening. We stopped walking on Whiting because of it.”
In June 2012, police were called in reference to a dog at large. Officers would arrive to find Ghost and another pit bull running loose in the area, but the dogs ran back to their home’s back porch, according to the police report. Carter was issued a citation for animals at large.
Two months later, Carter was arrested and charged with the shooting death of Terrell Allen. In the days after his arrest, police received a call for a well-being check for his dogs. Animal control officers found the dogs had food and water and were in their kennel.
A few days later, Ashiya and the two dogs moved to her mother’s home on Whiting Avenue. Whiting animal control officers would respond to this residence twice – Dec. 20, 2012, and Feb. 8, 2013, – over complaints that the dogs were being left out in the cold. When they arrived, the dogs were no longer outside, meaning officials could take no further action. Ashiya says it was a misunderstanding, and that she had just let the dogs out for a little bit and they were not being neglected.
Ashiya’s mother is adamant that the two dogs were not vicious. “If I had ever heard of the dogs intimidating people or threatening people, they would have been gone,” said Susan. “There are children who live here, too, and I would have never stood for having children in that kind of danger.”
According to the Humane Society, Ashiya insisted they take the second pit bull after Ryan’s death. “The owner told us to take it,” said Knox County Humane Society Director Erin Buckmaster. “It wasn’t aggressive, but it was pretty hungry, and its ribs were showing.”
So the death of this boy could go either way, depending on what side of the fence you are on regarding pit bulls. On one hand you have a dog that was never reported as vicious, and has been around children its entire life, snapping and tearing the throat out of a 7-year-old boy. On the other, you have a chained pit bull with hints of being neglected, living in a sketchy environment, tearing the throat out of a 7-year-old boy.