Dogs Kill Jogger, Owners Charged With Murder

By Aaron Pero

Fri Aug 1st, 2014 12:09pm America/Los_Angeles

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LAPEER, Mich. (AP) — A couple charged with second-degree murder after their dogs fatally mauled a Michigan jogger have agreed to have the animals euthanized.

Valbona Lucaj and husband Sebastiano Quagliata signed the agreement with prosecutors Friday, the same day they appeared in court on charges related to the death of Craig Sytsma of Livonia.

He was attacked by two cane corsos on July 23 in Metamora Township, 45 miles northwest of Detroit. The agreement says the dogs and a third cane corso will be killed as soon as possible.

The dogs have been in custody along with eight puppies. The puppies will be offered to an animal rescue group.

Bond was set at $500,000 each for the 44-year-old Lucaj and 45-year-old Quagliata.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A couple charged with second-degree murder after their dogs fatally mauled a Michigan jogger each face $500,000 bond.

Lapeer County prosecutors wanted $1 million, saying Valbona Lucaj and husband Sebastiano Quagliata might flee the country. But Magistrate Mike Delling settled on a lower amount Friday, noting there’s “some question” about the couple’s status in the U.S.

It wasn’t immediately known if the couple could pay the bond and get out of jail or arrange payment through a bond agency. Message seeking comment were left for the couple’s attorney.

Craig Sytsma of Livonia was attacked July 23 in Metamora Township, 45 miles northwest of Detroit. The dogs are cane corsos.

“It’s a horrible tragedy … but animal cases get a lot of attention,” assistant prosecutor Michael Hodges said outside court.

Lucaj, 44, a native of Albania, and Quagliata, 45, a native of Italy, have had a long-running legal battle with federal immigration officials after arriving here in the late 1990s.

Lucaj was named in a bribery scandal involving an immigration official in New York, although she wasn’t charged. The government said she and other immigrants paid a middleman to ensure they would be granted asylum.

The government in 2010 took some steps toward deporting Lucaj and Quagliata, but legal challenges have stalled the process, court records show. In March, a federal judge in Detroit refused to overturn a decision rejecting the couple’s application for naturalization.

“Given the posture of their immigration cases, ICE has not yet initiated removal proceedings against either individual,” said Khaalid Walls, a Detroit spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. “ICE will, however, continue to closely monitor the matter and take appropriate enforcement action once the local criminal proceedings are resolved.”

Lucaj and Quagliata return to court on Aug. 8.

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