Authorities filed criminal charges this week against the grandparents and father of a 15-month-old girl who was mauled to death in May by the family's pit bull.
On Monday, Las Cruces Police arrested Leticia I. Mesa
, 52, her husband Arthur "Arturo" Mesa Sr.
, 57, and Jesus Mesa
, 21, all residents of 819 Stone Canyon Drive in Las Cruces, where Jesus Mesa's young daughter, Jazilyn Mesa, was fatally mauled on May 8.
Neighbors said they were shocked with the arrests, which police made after obtaining warrants charging Leticia Mesa with negligent child abuse resulting in death. Arthur Mesa and Jesus Mesa are each charged with one count of possession of a dangerous dog resulting in death.
"I hate to say this, but they deserve it. There's no excuse to have a dog like that around a little baby," said Jose Gomez, a neighbor who described an incident when the pit bull tried going after him, but was restrained by one of the defendants who had it on a leash.
"I noticed it. He was just about to ready to run at me," Gomez said.
Several neighbors told police that the Mesa's pit bull, named Tyson, had at various times prior to the attack, shown aggression toward them and their dogs. One neighbor told police that Leticia Mesa had revealed that Tyson previously attacked another dog belonging to the family, tearing off its scalp.
An elderly neighbor said the pit bull once attacked him and his German shepherd, but told police that the Mesas pleaded with him not to report the incident. Another neighbor reported warning Leticia Mesa to get better control of the dog before something bad happened, but said she laughed off those concerns
, according to court documents.
The baby girl's mother had also been worried about the pit bull
being close to her daughter, and demanded that Arthur and Leticia Mesa keep the dog locked in a kennel whenever the girl visited. Arthur and Leticia Mesa agreed, but police say they did not keep that promise, and that Leticia Mesa thought the young girl's mother was being overprotective, according to court documents.
An autopsy showed she had bitten 12 to 15 times all over her body, with six puncture wounds to the back of her skull.
The girl, who only weighed 23 pounds, had injuries to her arms and feet consistent with having been dragged across the ground. She also had brain swelling consistent with shaken baby syndrome, according to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator's report.
Leticia Mesa, who was treated for her wounds at University Medical Center of El Paso, was interviewed twice by police detectives, who said she gave inconsistent statements about the events leading up to the attack.
Leticia Mesa first told police that the dog was drinking water, and that it had perhaps attacked the girl when she walked up to its dish bowl. She also said that she wrapped herself around the girl, and then either fell or was dragged into a hole underneath a trampoline in the backyard.
Interviewed by police three days later, Leticia Mesa told detectives that she was carrying the baby, and that the pit bull attacked when she bent over to allow the girl to touch the water in the dog's bowl, according to a police report.
Leticia Mesa said she yelled at the dog, and hit it with rocks to try to loosen its grip. Police said her account was still inconsistent with the child's injuries, due to the fact that Leticia Mesa was not injured, even though she claimed to be holding the girl during the attack.
Detectives said Leticia Mesa admitted to them that, despite promises to the girl's mother, she continued to allow her grandchildren to be outside without locking the dog in a kennel. Arthur and Leticia Mesa told police that they had never seen the dog act in an aggressive manner, and added that they were training him to be sociable, according to court documents.
Jesus Mesa also told police that the pit bull had never attacked another animal or person, and that he had never seen the dog behave aggressively. However, questioned further by police, Jesus Mesa admitted that Tyson had injured another pit bull during a fight, and had also attacked an elderly man who had walked past his house, according to court documents.
A veterinarian who over the years cared for several dogs that belonged to the Mesa family told detectives that Tyson had showed signs of aggression and had to be muzzled the one time it was treated at the office.
Jazilyn Mesa's mother and maternal grandparents also expressed concern with the pit bull and, prior to the young girl's Jan. 26, 2011, birth, and asked the Mesa family to get rid of the dog, police said.
When the Mesa family refused to get rid of the dog, Jazilyn's mother demanded that Tyson not be allowed anywhere near her daughter when the young girl visited the Mesa's residence, and that the dog be kenneled when Jazilyn was visiting the home, police said.
Detectives learned that Jazilyn's mother — who did not reside at the Mesa's home — was unaware of the dog's history of violence, but was concerned for her daughter's safety because of Tyson's size, and because the dog appeared to be rambunctious and untrained.