PALMDALE . (AP) — Sheriff’s authorities said a man who was arrested this week on suspicion of growing marijuana is now a “person of interest” in the death of a 63-year-old jogger who was mauled to death by a pack of pit bulls in the Mojave Desert.
Homicide investigators are still conducting tests to determine whether any of the six pit bulls seized at the home of Alex Jackson, 28, are the animals that attacked the woman on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jackson has been arrested on suspicion of growing marijuana at the home while police were searching the property during the mauling investigation.
The jogger’s death was the latest of at least five deadly dog attacks in California in the past two years.
Last month, Claudia Gallardo, 38, of Stockton, was mauled to death by a pit bull in the front yard of a home where the dog lived.
In February, Elsie Grace, 91, of Hemet, was killed by a pair of pit bulls at a motel.
In June 2011, two pit bulls escaped from their yard and mauled a neighbor in her San Diego backyard. Emako Mendoza, 75, suffered arm and leg amputations before dying months later. The dog’s two owners were convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
In June 2012, an 8-month-old boy, Tyzhel Latella McWilliams, was mauled to death by a pit bull at a home in Lemon Grove, near San Diego.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s authorities said a driver saw pit bulls attacking Pamela Marie Devitt, 63, Thursday in the high desert community of Littlerock. The driver called 911 and honked her horn to try to get the dogs to stop.
An arriving deputy saw a single dog still attacking the runner and tried to chase it off, Lt. John Corina said. The dog ran off into the desert, then turned around and attacked the deputy, who took a shot at the animal before it ran off.
Hours later, sheriff’s and animal control officials served a search warrant on a home near the site of the attack and took away eight dogs, six pit bulls and two mixed-breeds. A 29-year-old man from the house, identified Friday as Alex Donald Jackson, was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana.
The dogs were kept under quarantine for rabies observation at a Lancaster shelter. Four of the pit bulls seized were believed to have attacked Devitt.
Her husband told KCAL-TV he blamed the dogs’ owners for what happened.
“I do not blame the dogs. I don’t blame pit bulls,” Ben Devitt said. “I blame people who don’t take responsibility for their animals.”
Not all of the dogs are licensed, spayed or neutered as required by county and state law, said Marcia Mayeda, the county’s animal control director.
“They’re fine now,” she said of their behavior. “They’re all separated so they’re not able to engage in a pack behavior, where they group up together and may act aggressively.”
Their strange surroundings also may have intimidated them, she said.
The agency will seek to have any dogs involved in the attack destroyed, Mayeda said. The others will be licensed, spayed or neutered as required and three of them — the legal limit — will be returned to the owner while the rest will be placed for adoption if they are friendly, Mayeda said.
However, there still was a chance that the attacking animals were strays.
“In these areas, you might have a situation where people dump animals out in rural areas,” said John Mlynar, a spokesman for the nearby city of Palmdale.
People living near the site of the attack said stray dogs constantly roam the area and have attacked people before.
“It’s really scary,” Diane Huffman, of Littlerock, told KABC-TV. “I don’t know what to think. I really think I’m going to be getting a gun to protect myself.”