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No charges in dog mauling of Pasco newborn

NEW PORT RICHEY — The case of Thomas James Carter Jr., a newborn mauled to death by a family dog in April, is closed.

Pasco authorities are not pursuing charges against the infant's 16-year-old mother, Nicole Koezeno, who slept through the attack in a Moon Lake Estates mobile home on Olsen Street, where 10 people — eight adults and two children — lived on and off with three dogs who didn't get along.

Detectives determined the dog blamed in the attack had no documented history of aggressive behavior toward humans and that the mother was not criminally impaired.

"At this point it was an accident," said Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, which released its death investigation report on the case Thursday.

Koezeno woke at noon April 14 to find her 7-day-old son covered in blood. Thomas, who weighed 5.9 pounds, had 50 to 100 puncture wounds on his body and head, reports state. There were two dogs in the small room with Koezeno and the baby when she went to sleep — a pit bull mixed breed named Sidon, who weighed between 60 and 70 pounds, and a 35-pound female mixed breed dog named Pebbles. A third dog, Buddy, was on a chain outside, reports state.

Sidon didn't have a history of attacks on people, though he was aggressive toward other dogs. He was blamed for the attack on Thomas and later euthanized. He was not rabid, authorities said.

"Most people would not recommend sleeping with dogs and a young child in a bedroom," Doll said. He described the matter as "more of a social service type of a case, not a criminal case."

Some questioned how Koezeno managed to sleep through the attack that killed her son. Koezeno wondered that herself, according to an interview with authorities April 23.

"Nicole repeatedly denied being in an impaired state, but at one point she blurted out, 'even if I was all messed up, everyone in the house told me there was no noise,' " the report states.

Tests showed the young mother had oxycodone and marijuana in her system, authorities said. She explained the marijuana by saying she smoked some with a friend five days before her son's death — which would have been two days after his birth. Thomas was bottle fed, reports state.

Koezeno had a prescription for Percocet — a pain reliever made of oxycodone and acetaminophen — which she told authorities was prescribed to her by a doctor after she gave birth to Thomas. She gave varying reports of when she went to sleep the night before her son died and how much medication she took. She also told investigators she took at least three pills between the time she discovered her son dead and her blood was drawn for toxicology tests.

Doll wouldn't comment on what level of oxycodone was in Koezeno's system, just stating it "didn't rise to a criminal amount."

Koezeno didn't live full-time at the single-wide mobile home, which had blankets and towels tacked up as curtains and tires in the yard. It was the home of her boyfriend and baby's father — Thomas James Carter, now 21, who left for his job doing lawn care about 7 a.m. the day of the attack. Sidon was Carter's dog.

Carter told authorities he got Sidon from a family who couldn't keep him because he kept jumping on their children — in a "playful" way, Carter said. Koezeno told investigators she lived with her mother a few blocks from Carter's, but that she stayed most nights with her boyfriend.

The mobile home had 840 square feet of living space — two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, one bathroom — all "cluttered, dirty and unkempt," reports state. Their bedroom was about 10 feet by 10 feet. Their bed was a mattress on top of another mattress on top of a box spring on the floor. There was a dresser and a bassinet and a TV. A bowl of dog food and a bowl of water. Their one window was broken, a sheet of plywood jammed into it, from a time when Sidon, who was about 6 years old, tried to jump through it to get at another dog, reports state.

Koezeno told investigators the dog had never been aggressive in her presence.

"Nicole later stated Sidon had maybe been mean to one or two neighbors, but had not attacked anyone to her knowledge. … Nicole advised Sidon would lick the baby and seemed very friendly towards the baby," documents state.

When asked by a detective if Sidon had any toys that might have resembled the baby in any way, Koezeno said Sidon had teddy bears as toys.

He would "chew the cotton out of them," Koezeno said.

No charges in dog mauling of Pasco newborn 11/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 18, 2010 8:52pm]

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