Girl mauled, killed by pit bulls

SHOW LOW - A group of pit bull dogs that have been repeatedly reported for running the streets of a neighborhood west of downtown attacked and killed a 5-year-old girl Monday.

The same dogs had attacked and nearly killed another neighbor's dog two weeks earlier. The dogs' owner was cited for attacking Stephanie Clark's dog which was leashed inside her fenced yard. The attack resulted in nearly $600 in vet bills to heal Clark's dog.

Annilee McKinnon

SHOW LOW – A group of pit bull dogs that have been repeatedly reported for running the streets of a neighborhood west of downtown attacked and killed a 5-year-old girl Monday.

The same dogs had attacked and nearly killed another neighbor’s dog two weeks earlier. The dogs’ owner was cited for attacking Stephanie Clark’s dog which was leashed inside her fenced yard. The attack resulted in nearly $600 in vet bills to heal Clark’s dog.

“She (the owner) warned me that her dogs would remember the teenagers that beat her dogs off (Clark’s brown Labrador),” Clark said.

Clark said the dogs had also killed a cat in the street one week before the fatal attack on the girl.

According to witnesses, the three dogs, two which appeared to be purebred pit bulls and the third which looked as though it were a mixed breed, entered the yard where the child was playing with other children and attacked Annilee McKinnon. The girl attempted to escape by climbing a tree but the dogs pulled her down and dragged her to a ditch in the yard, according to one witness.

The girl’s father, Troy McKinnon, was in the house when the attack started and ran from the home and grabbed her. He ran across the street, holding his daughter, to a neighbor’s home and, according to police, the dogs continued to try and grab the girl.

Annilee’s sister, 4-year-old Belle, witnessed the attack.

Andy Towle – The Independent

Setting flowers at a makeshift memorial are Sue Sisson and Paula Inhelder near the spot where 5-year-old girl Annilee McKinnon was mauled and killed by pit bull dogs in the middle of the afternoon Monday.

Andy Towle – The Independent

Patti Crandall and her son Lucas try to understand the tragedy that occurred on Dec. 13 when three pit bulls attacked a 5 year old girl playing in her yard near Fool Hollow Lake.

The attack occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m.

The sisters have been in foster care for most of their lives. They were taken from the biological parents 45 months earlier and placed with foster families in Apache County – Annilee with a family in Concho and Belle with a St. Johns family. Although they were living in different households the foster parents say they kept the girls in close contact with one another. Both the girls’ parents, Troy and Dawn McKinnon have extensive criminal records, including substance abuse and drug charges.

Troy had given up for adoption three sons from a previous marriage.

The foster families of both girls have been attempting to permantly adopt the girls but the McKinnons’ were reportedly trying to turn their lives around and were fighting to regain custody of their children. The girls were, on a judge’s order, sent to visit with their biological parents for 10 days. They had been with their parents for five days when the attack occurred.

According to neighbors, the owner of the pit bull, Janice Caulkins, 38, has never attempted to contain her dogs. There is no fenced area in Caulkin’s yard. “They just let them out,” said Clark.

According to Clark, Caulkins has been breeding the dogs – “litter after litter” – at times there were as many as six dogs in the home.

Members of the Caulkins family declined an opportunity to discuss the matter on Tuesday but reportedly the owner of the dog told television news reporters that Annilee must have done something to provoke the attack.

County attorney Mel Bowers said, Wednesday, that his office has not decided what charges will be filed. “This is just horrendous,” he said. “Somebody needs to be held responsible.”

Bowers said he has asked Show Low police to conduct a criminal investigation, including canvassing the neighborhood to see if the dog’s owners should have known that their dogs had a “propensity for violence.”

Kathy Fichtelman, Annilee’s foster mother, asked that people think of Annilee when they see a butterfly. Annilee’s nickname was Butterfly. Her favorite song was Keep on the Sunnyside of Life. “Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunnyside of life.”

“What a dear wonderful child,” Fichtelman wrote.

A funeral service is being held Monday, Dec. 20, starting at 2 p.m. at the White Mountain United Methodist Church, 261 N. 5th Street, in Show Low.

*The following information was released after press time - look for more on this story in Tuesday's White Mountain Independent

Police arrest pit bull owners

SHOW LOW — Show Low Police officers arrested three individuals Thursday in connection with the mauling to death of a 5-year-old girl by three pit bulls on Dec. 13.

Navajo County Attorney Mel Bowers said Thursday the arrests were made on probable cause, and second degree murder charges were expected to be filed Friday in Holbrook.

Janice Caulkins, 38, the owner of the dogs, was charged with one count of second degree murder, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. The drug paraphernalia was found during a search warrant executed by police the night of the incident.

Caulkins's mother, Katherine Caulkins, 64, who lived in the home, was also arrested on one count of second degree murder.

Sgt. Shawn Roby, who investigated the case, said, "Those adults knew the dogs to be aggressive and allowed them to run free."

Daniel Thomas, 35, was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. All three suspects are in police custody. Another individual is still being sought, Roby said.

The three adult dogs have been destroyed. There was also a puppy in the home that is being kept in the pound.

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