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Slow Response Noted in Colo. Dog Mauling

December 4, 2003

KIOWA, Colo. (AP) _ It took more than an hour for a sheriff’s deputy to respond to a 911 call when three pit bulls attacked a couple, fatally mauling the woman, authorities acknowledged Wednesday.

Horse trainer Jennifer Brooke, 40, died after she was attacked Sunday on her farm. Her husband, Bjorn Osmunsen, also was attacked when he went to look for her.

``This is heartbreaking,″ said Johnette Curtis, who rents a home on the property. ``She was so lovely, and somebody should pay.″

Osmunsen called Curtis after the dogs attacked him. When she arrived in her truck, they drove inside the barn and shut the doors against the pack of dogs, Curtis said. Osmunsen then called 911.

``Bjorn asked, `Is there anybody coming?‴ Curtis said Tuesday. ``Then I heard him say, `You mean there’s nobody coming?‴

Osmunsen found his wife’s body shortly afterward.

``As strong as she was, she just didn’t have a chance,″ said Curtis’ daughter, Kristi Van Etten.

In a statement Wednesday, the sheriff’s office said the 911 call came at the same time the only deputy on patrol was responding to a domestic violence call. Authorities said the sheriff’s office is often short-staffed, and relies on town police to help.

A deputy working in the county jail reached the scene 70 minutes after the call came in, the office said. The deputy decided to go because it appeared the officer at the domestic violence call was going to be tied up for some time.

Often, just one deputy is on patrol in the jurisdiction that covers nearly 1,900 square miles, the statement said.

Elbert County Sheriff William Frangis released a Nov. 26 letter in which he accused the county commissioners of indifference to staffing and equipment problems.

``Any injury or death that results from not correcting these issues will have grave legal repercussions,″ the letter said.

County officials were angry that the sheriff released the letter but had no comment on it, Commissioner John Metli said. ``The sheriff needs to devote his time to that investigation,″ he said.

The dogs, owned by neighbor Jacqueline McCuen, attacked another person Sunday before they were shot and killed, authorities said.

Elbert County Undersheriff James Underwood said charges probably will be filed against McCuen by the end of the week.

McCuen had no listed phone number, but her laywer, Michael Andre, has said she was ``horrified″ and was cooperating with the investigation.

Officials and residents of the area, rolling ranch land southeast of Denver, said the dogs were well known. One of them had allegedly mauled a neighbor earlier this year. McCuen faces a misdemeanor charge in that case.

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