Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Palm River girl, 3, badly bitten in face by pit bull mix

TAMPA — Bear, a pit bull terrier mix, lived his entire two years in Apt. 8015 on Tommy Court. He kept to himself for the most part, spending some days inside and others chained to a second-floor balcony.

His owner said she babied him.

"I fed him out of a bottle" when he was a puppy, said Tanya Okeke, 41.

On Monday afternoon, Okeke took Bear down the wooden stairs outside her apartment and chained him to the handrail at the bottom so she could bathe him. Nearby, children played.

"Y'all move!" Okeke said she told them. But she said one child, a 3-year-old girl named Destiny McKenzie, somehow fell off the stairs — and into Bear's reach.

Bear attacked, biting the face of the little girl known to many as "Peanut." The child screamed, but Bear did not let go — not until Okeke was able to strike him on the head with her fist.

"All I heard was screaming," recalled a neighbor, Dorecus Aikens, 30, who came running outside. She said by the time she got to the door, the child had managed to walk away, covered in blood.

Destiny, who lives at the complex with her mother, Akesha Williams, was in serious condition at Tampa General Hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery for the cuts to her face, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said.

Her mother could not be reached for comment. Several neighbors said the child was coated in blood from her injuries.

Hillsborough County Animal Control seized Bear. Okeke said she told officers to put the dog down.

"I'm sad, I'm depressed," Okeke said Monday evening. "But it was a kid. A kid comes before an animal."

Okeke acknowledged that it wasn't the first time Bear had bitten someone. About a year ago, he bit a woman who lives at the apartment complex.

Okeke declined to go into detail but said it was an accident and the woman never pursued a case against her.

She said Bear had all his required shots.

The Sheriff's Office said it had turned Monday's case over to the county's Animal Services Department. No charges had been announced.

State records show that Okeke served almost 16 months of a two-year prison sentence in 2004 and 2005 for cocaine possession.

Aikens, who lives across from Okeke, said she'd never had any problems with Bear. She said she'd sometimes pet him.

"She's had him since he was a baby," Aikens said, shaking her head.

Outside Okeke's apartment was a makeshift plywood dog gate dividing her section of the balcony from her neighbors'.

She had a "Beware of Dog" sign near her door. Hanging off the balcony was Bear's heavy chain.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374.

Palm River girl, 3, badly bitten in face by pit bull mix 06/04/12 [Last modified: Monday, June 4, 2012 11:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Roosevelt Blvd closed at I-275 after truck hauling crane hits overpass


    ST. PETERSBURG — A truck transporting a construction crane hit the Interstate 275 overpass at Roosevelt Boulevard Tuesday.

  2. One Pasco County student arrested for bringing weapons to school, another for threatening shooting


    Two Pasco County students from different schools were arrested Tuesday, one for having weapons on school grounds and the other for threatening a school shooting.

  3. It's official: Hillsborough high schools move to 8:30 a.m. start time, elementary schools to go earlier


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County high schools school will be in session from 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. starting in 2018-19, the School Board decided Tuesday in a 6-0 vote.

    The Hillsborough County School Board has decided to end a compressed bus schedule that caused an estimated 12,000 children to get to school late every day. Under the new schedule, high schools will start at 8:30 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. Elementary schools will start at 7:40 a.m. and middle schools at 9:25 a.m. [Times files]
  4. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues


    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  5. The topic will be neighborhoods as Kriseman, Baker debate one more time


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker will face off, possibly for the last time before the Nov. 7 election, in a candidate forum on Wednesday hosted by the influential Council of Neighborhood Associations.

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, left, and former Mayor Rick Baker during a September forum. The two will will face off, possibly for the last time before the Nov. 7 election, during  a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Sunshine Center, 330 5th St. N. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]