No criminal charges will be filed against a Linda woman whose young brother was fatally mauled by her pit bulls when she left him alone with them in a travel trailer in January.
"This case has had a profound emotional impact on all those involved," District Attorney Patrick McGrath said Friday, when he announced the decision. "We had to make sure our filing decision was not made by emotions."
McGrath and two other prosecutors who reviewed the case made a unanimous decision.
"No one felt we would meet a standard of criminal negligence," McGrath said. Tyler Trammell-Huston, 9, suffered multiple dog bites and was found lifeless on the floor of the trailer when his half-sister, Alexandria Griffin-Heady, 24, returned from work on the morning of Jan. 3.
The boy had been mauled by Griffin-Heady's pit bulls in the trailer parked near other family members' home on Dunning Avenue. Two of the dogs had been left in a padlocked, cage kennel that was overturned and damaged when Griffin-Heady came home, according to a press release provided by McGrath.
Yuba County sheriff's detectives had requested Griffin-Heady be charged with felony child endangerment when they filed a 60-page report with the District Attorney's Office three weeks after the incident.
Griffin-Heady spoke with reporters minutes after she learned of the decision.
"It's good to have an end," she said. "To be able to move forward with the loss of him, without being scared of going to jail."
Life for her now, she said, moves slower without her brother, whom she had planned to adopt.
The story of the mauling made national headlines, prompting strong comments from people both critical and supportive of the pit bull breed.
Griffin-Heady told reporters soon after the incident she didn't think her companion dogs were aggressive. On Friday, she explained that she adopted the older dog - the mother of the other two - soon after her mother died. The puppies were her family.
"I never believed it was a possibility," she said of the attack.
"There are loads of things that you wish you could change. You pray to go back, but you can't," she said. She regrets that she wasn't home with Tyler.
"I will never forgive myself for leaving him. I promised myself I would protect him and never leave him. And, whether it's my fault or not, I'll never forgive myself for it," she said.
Recently released information provided a detailed description of the morning's harrowing events.
Griffin-Heady returned from her two-hour shift as a security guard and opened the trailer door at 9:55 a.m. to find Tyler lying unresponsive on the floor, visibly covered with wounds. She immediately lifted him to the bed and began CPR. She called 911 and was told to move him to a flat surface, which she did.
When a deputy arrived she was trying to save the boy's life and "hysterically screaming and directing deputies to shoot one or more of the dogs," a press release says.
Tyler was transported to Rideout Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead at 10:22 a.m.
"The absence of a future that isn't going to happen, the memories that are gone," those are the things Griffin-Heady said she is thinking about now.
A list of items seized as evidence by detectives provides some insight to the bloody scene of the boy's death. Items include a "shirt with holes consistent with bite punctures on back," multiple household items with blood splatter and a piece of the boy's scalp.
While the scene of his death was grisly, exactly how Tyler died isn't part of the case. "Whether he died from three, 10 or 100 bites is not legally relevant," McGrath said.
To make a filing decision, prosecutors had to determine whether a jury of 12 Yuba County residents would find Griffin-Heady guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of child endangerment, which would require jurors to believe she acted with criminal negligence when she left the trailer. According to jury instructions, evidence must show she could foresee the consequences of her actions and that she acted with indifference to human life.
The dogs had to have shown aggressive behavior in the past, and Griffin-Heady had to be aware of that behavior.
Evidence gathered in the case failed to show that either was true, McGrath said.
A deputy's affidavit says: "Heady told me her dogs have attacked one other person before and that was her 4-year-old niece." When the girl went outside, the dogs knocked her down and scratched her face, it said.
After reading that statement in January, Griffin-Heady's attorney Roberto Marquez took issue with the use of the word "attack" in the deputy's description of that incident.
His client said the dogs were kissing the girl when she was knocked down and that she scratched her face on the ground, and that a dog accidentally scratched her.
McGrath said witnesses corroborated that description of the incident.
There were two other examples of behavior that could have been considered aggressive.
Griffin-Heady said that one of her dogs might have killed a cat. The other evidence was by a neighbor who said one of the dogs aggressively chased her son. Griffin-Heady was never informed of that incident, McGrath said.
"No one came to the conclusion that these were aggressive dogs," McGrath said.
It was not foreseeable that these dogs would attack the boy, he said.
Anti-pit bull organizations had told McGrath they hoped he would file charges, to set precedence and create change across the country.
McGrath said the place for that conversation is in the Legislature.
Griffin-Heady, who had been a strong pit-bull advocate, said she doesn't hate and she can't hate a dog she doesn't know.
"There are plenty of pit bulls that haven't and will never snap," she said. But, to owners of dogs who have small children, she said: "Don't assume they'd never do that."
CONTACT reporter Monica Vaughan at 749-4783 and on Twitter @MonicaLVaughan.