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Charges Unlikely In Dog Attack

April 9, 1987

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ Prosecutors said Wednesday they likely will not be able to file charges against the owners of two pit bulldogs that attacked a 67-year-old man who died in surgery three hours later.

The only way to prosecute the dogs’ owners would be to invoke the city’s vicious dog ordinance, prosecutors said. But the ordinance defines a vicious dog as one that attacks someone other than the owner off the owner’s property.

However, the attack on Dr. William G. Eckman on Monday, witnessed by several neighbors, took place on the owners’ property.

Owner Joetta Darmstadter, 32, who also was bitten, was in fair condition Wednesday. Calls to her hospital room were blocked, security guards refused visitors and she declined interviews, hospital spokeswoman Char Jones said.

Owner Wilbur Rutledge, who was cited for not having a dog license, declined comment Monday and has not been available to comment since.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Lee Falke said Wednesday charges were unlikely against Ms. Darmstadter or Rutledge because the attack occurred ″mostly on the (owner’s) property. That’s our big problem.″

Neighbors tried to beat the dogs off with pipes and sticks and said Eckman tried to climb onto a passing car that had stopped, but the dogs pulled him down while he screamed for help.

Police have had only a brief interview with Ms. Darmstadter, Police Maj. Edward Long said Wednesday.

″She said it started in the house and went to the front door. ... We have nothing to indicate he (Eckman) was in the house,″ Long said.

″She said he was outside. When she got to the door, she was fighting the dogs off and then he came to help her″ from the outside, he said.

Long said police still do not know why Eckman, a chief of surgery at the local Veterans Administration hospital, was in the area.

Eckman was severely bitten on both legs and the right arm and may have died of a heart attack, coroner’s investigator J.R. Williams said.

The dogs, each weighing about 35 pounds, are being held under a 10-day quarantine order to check for rabies.

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