FREEMAN — A third person has been charged in connection with last month’s attack in which four pit bulls mauled a Freeman woman.
On June 13, at about 6:30 am, 55-year-old Aleta Marie Starner was allegedly mobbed by four dogs as she walked near the Freeman Community Center.
Starner was bitten 17 times and suffered 63 different injuries. She was taken to the Freeman hospital where she required about nine sutures to close her deepest wounds, according to authorities.
A Freeman mother and son, Denise Schild, 63, and Dawson Schild, 33, were initially charged in connection with the attack. They live at 309 S. Wipf Street, where they kept the dogs.
Last week, Damien Scorzafava, 20, of Sioux Falls was charged with interfering with the authorities’ investigation.
All three defendants are scheduled to appear July 25 at the Hutchinson County Courthouse in Olivet. At that time, the Schilds can also appeal the Freeman City Council’s decision Tuesday to put the three recovered dogs to sleep.
Authorities don’t know the location of the fourth dog.
The Schilds appeared June 27 before Judge Patrick Smith, and their cases were continued until this month.
Dawson Schild faces one count of obstructing a law enforcement officer, a Class 1 misdemeanor. He has been accused of refusing to turn the dogs over to authorities and then taking or arranging the transport of the dogs out of Freeman.
In addition, the Schilds have each been charged with one count of disturbing the peace by animal and four counts of a dog running at large. The maximum penalty for each of those charges is 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Scorzafava has been charged with one count of aiding and abetting in the obstructing a law enforcement officer and one count of false reporting to authorities. Both are Class 1 misdemeanors.
Three of the four dogs connected with the attack were recovered at a Yankton apartment and remained impounded in Sioux Falls.
On Tuesday, the Freeman City Council voted 5-0 to have the three dogs in custody be put to sleep, according to the Freeman Courier newspaper.
The Freeman council placed the Schilds on the agenda, the Courier reported. The Schilds and others appeared at the meeting, saying the dogs were not vicious animals, the newspaper added.
The council’s motion calls for the dogs to remain alive until after the Schilds’ July 25 court appearance.
In the most recent court documents, Freeman Police Officer Jonathan Slevin provided additional narrative that included details of Scorzafava’s involvement and how the dogs were located in Yankton.
Following the June 13 dog attack, Slevin went to the Schilds’ house where Dawson refused to turn over the dogs. Slevin called for backup from the Hutchinson County sheriff’s office and contacted the Freeman city attorney to learn the Freeman Police Department’s authority to seize the animals.
During his wait, Slevin noted a blonde male with glasses exit the Schild house, get into Dawson’s vehicle and leave the area. When Hutchinson County Deputy Sheriff Maurice Waltner arrived, Slevin knocked on the Schilds’ door. Denise answered and, when asked for the dogs, responded that Dawson took the dogs and left out the back door.
On June 14, Slevin received multiple calls from community members that Dawson Schild had returned to his house. Slevin went to the residence, where he arrested the defendant and took him to the police station.
Initially, Schild was cooperative and was released from his handcuffs. He was told why he was arrested and was given a list of the charges against him.
“Dawson was skeptical about the injuries his dogs had caused the victim, Aleta Starner. At that point I produced photos of Mrs. Starner’s injuries and showed them to Dawson,” Slevin said. “At this point, Dawson appeared to show a great concern for the well being of the dogs and himself.”
Schild was given his Miranda warning against self-incrimination and invoked his rights. Waltner, the deputy sheriff, arrived at the Freeman police department, and bond was set based on the state charges.
Dawson was informed more local charges would be served to him in the near future, and he was released from custody at that time.
On June 15, a source identified Scorzafava as the blonde male who helped Dawson escape with the dogs by means of a motor vehicle. The source also provided the names of Dawson’s friend who owned a Sioux Falls junkyard and another friend with property a few miles south of Freeman.
In the meantime, Slevin reached out to Sioux Falls Animal Control and shared case information with them. In addition. Hutchinson County Deputy Cody Fischer and Slevin visited the Freeman property where the owner hadn’t seen the dogs and didn’t know their location.
On June 16, Freeman Police Chief Scott Brewer and Slevin visited a veterinarian who had cared for the dogs. The veterinarian believed Denise Schild was the legal owner because her name was on all veterinary documents, and she was the only one who brought the animals into the vet clinic for care.
Brewer and Slevin returned to the Schilds’ house, where Denise denied knowing anything about the dogs and reportedly refused to give any helpful information.
At the house, Slevin interviewed Scorzafava about the incident with the dogs.
Around 12:30 pm, Brewer and Slevin received an anonymous tip that the dogs were at a Yankton apartment. The Freeman officers requested assistance and were met at the complex by three Yankton Police Department members.
The woman who answered the door said Denise Schild had brought the dogs to stay with her, but the woman wasn’t told what the dogs had done until learning about the incident on the news. She contact Denise to pick up the dogs as they were no longer welcome at her apartment.
The woman allowed the authorities into her apartment, advising them she didn’t want the dogs and voluntarily handed them over to the Freeman Police Department. Brewer and some of the Yankton police officers loaded the dogs into the Freeman patrol vehicle.
The authorities transported the pit bulls back to Freeman, where the dogs were stored at the city’s kennels that night. The woman told authorities she only had three dogs, not four.
On June 17, the dogs were turned over to Sioux Falls Animal Control Officer Milo Hartson and transported to the Sioux Falls animal control facility.
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