Saturday, November 18, 2017
Public safety

Deputies: Adults smoking pot while pit bulls kill 4-year-old boy

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TAMPA — While a 4-year-old boy wandered outside a Riverview home and was mauled to death by two dogs earlier this month, his mother and two relatives were inside smoking marijuana, records released Tuesday show.

No charges will be filed in the case, a memo from Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober states.

The boy, Logan Sheppard, and his mother, Stephanie Groulx, 43, had walked from their nearby home to his aunt and uncle's place at 12509 Rhodine Road on the night of July 19.

According to investigative records, Groulx and Logan's aunt and uncle, Delores and Billy Fredericks, went to a back bedroom to share "half of a joint."

They left Logan in the family room with his 15-year-old cousin, who was wearing headphones and watching Men in Black III on a computer. A TV in the living room was blaring, records show.

Logan wandered outside unnoticed, where he encountered two pit bull terriers — Monkey and Dolly. Thinking everyone was inside, Billy Fredericks, 49, had let them out of their cages earlier that evening to roam the yard.

Instead, the dogs mauled Logan, tearing off his scalp and biting flesh from his neck. They were removed from the property and later euthanized.

In a phone interview Tuesday with the Tampa Bay Times, Dolores Fredericks declined comment. "We want this to go away," she said. "And if we keep talking, this won't go away."

Adults told investigators from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office that they weren't away from the boy more than five minutes.

Thinking Logan was calling, Groulx left the room. She asked her nephew where her son was, but he didn't hear her because of the headphones.

Billy Fredericks checked outdoors. He found Logan face down, blood pooling at his side, the dogs panting beside him.

One deputy wrote that when he arrived on scene, the dogs were still running in the yard. He said "the odor of marijuana was emanating" from the adults. Indoors, he detected the scent in the bedroom, "which became stronger once I entered the bathroom." He never found any drugs or paraphernalia, but records show Groulx later admitted to smoking marijuana, saying it was "just stupidity."

In his memo, Ober called Logan's death a "tragic event." He wrote that the office had considered a number of charges, including culpable negligence and possession of marijuana, but none would hold up in court.

Not bringing charges in a dog mauling case is not unusual.

In 2010, a newborn was mauled to death by a family dog in Moon Lake Estates in Pasco County. Pasco deputies did not pursue charges against the child's 16-year-old mother.

In 2012, a pit bull escaped from its home in New Port Richey and lunged at a police officer. Because no one was harmed and "the owner showed remorse," no charges were filed.

Logan's father, Michael Sheppard, was working on a church bus the night of the tragedy. He came home and saw his son lying in the dirt, lights from deputies' cars flashing around him.

Taking the death hard, he told investigators he and his wife lost one child during birth and another from heatstroke after three days. Logan was the miracle baby, "and now he is gone."

Contact Zack Peterson at [email protected]

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