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Sheriff: Boy's death an accident; dogs put down
By Tara Fasol-Chambers, The Southern
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 11:13 PM CDT
JOHNSTON CITY - Three dogs apparently involved in the death of a 3-year-old Johnston City boy were euthanized at 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to Williamson County Sheriff Tom Cundiff.

The sheriff said the investigation is complete, and the boy's death has been ruled accidental.

Gabrial Mandrell-Sauerhage was pronounced dead about 8:50 p.m. Saturday at Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion. Family found him badly injured after he pushed the screen from his bedroom window and crawled outside.

Williamson County Coroner Mike "Junior" Burke previously said the child sustained a number of dog bites, but one specific bite caused him to hemorrhage.

Family members said the child usually resided with his father, Stacey Sauerhage, but was visiting his mother, Michelle Sweeney, and her boyfriend, David Robinson, at their home at 13093 Willow Pond Road in Johnston City.

The couple had three dogs, two pit bull mixes and a collie mix. Police said in a previous statement it is believed the collie mix was tied up during the incident while the pit bulls were loose.

Cundiff said the child was attacked about 200 feet from the home and crawled from the window, which was at the opposite side of the house as the adults' bedroom. The release went on to state that Gabrial suffered at least one bite that would have made "yelling impossible."

"The residence didn't have air conditioning," Cundiff said in a news release issued Tuesday. "Numerous box fans running at the same time of the incident would have made it very hard for the adults in the house to hear anything outside."

Sweeney and Robinson requested all three dogs be euthanized the night of the attack, but the lead detectives called for the animals to be held at Williamson County Animal Control shelter until the investigation was complete.

In a release Tuesday, Cundiff said the attack might have been triggered by a stuffed animal that was found in the yard.

"It appears Gabrial brought the stuffed animal out with him when he left his bedroom through his open window," the release stated.

Cundiff said the family told detectives no aggression "had ever been shown to any family member from any of the three dogs."

However, Amy Fowler, a neighbor, said the pit bulls were often loose and were a nuisance, threatening members of her family in their yard. Fowler said she witnessed Gabrial playing with the collie several times, outside and unsupervised. She said the collie mix didn't seem to cause any problems.

Cundiff said it was unclear whether all or some of the dogs contributed to the incident, although it appeared more than one dog was involved.

The sheriff said he and the department extend their deepest sympathies to the child's family.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Murman and Wilson Funeral Home in Johnston City. Services will be at 8 p.m., with the Rev. Mike Glasco officiating. A private burial will be at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Murman and Wilson Funeral Home, 211 W. Broadway Blvd., Johnston City, IL 62951.



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edward4u24ever wrote on Jul 7, 2009 6:47 AM:

" in april 09 in granite city a woman was charged with aggrivated discharge of a fire arm and aggrivated animal cruelty for shooting her boyfriends dog that had to be euthinized, humans get charged for killing so why isnt gabrials dead beat dope head unfit mother in jail??? cause shes probably screwing the states attorney and cops. hope your satisfied michelle, you are a wortless b***h "

meg sauerhage wrote on Jul 3, 2009 10:32 PM:

" yeah i agree with you below me. . something needs to be investigated here. . Just something about what she is saying dont sound right. "

edward4u24ever wrote on Jul 3, 2009 5:27 AM:

" accident, a typical lazy cop, put that worthless b***h behind bars.. i have 2 a/c units and 2 t.v.s on and can still hear the dog down the road. you people make me sick "

meg sauerhage wrote on Jul 2, 2009 10:45 PM:

" okay some people on here have very good points, but others (FLANK2). . maybe until you uknow the situation keep your oppenions out. gabe was very loved by OUR side of the family, and you do not know anything about the whole situation about his dad getting rights to him. so stop gossiping and get a life, some of you oppnions are not wanted on here.It is an article about a 3 year old baby. find somewhere else to run your mouth. RIP baby gabe. we all love and miss you hunny. you will always take up a big part of our hearts and will never be forgoten. yo uknow who loved and took care of you. "

wheezy321 wrote on Jul 2, 2009 8:14 AM:

" Frank2, I can only disagree on one point you made. Some accidents are preventable. At other times, some risks are foreseeable which puts the dog owner on notice that precautions must be taken. Buy a kennel, put up a fence, keep the dog contained and take a dog obedience course are all good ways to prevent accidents.

Some reader comments on this story mentioned a history of ordinace violations involving dog bites and dogs "running at large" in this family's past. It's public record and the SI forums are well aware of how to use judici.

Plus, the pit bull breed itself has qualities that make it ill suited for families with small children and many people are strongly prejudiced against pit bulls and other types of dogs with tendencies of fighting and attacking like Rotties.

A child who is killed by a dog is always going to stir up public sentiment since the cause of death was violent. I also think many readers imagined what it was like for Gabrial, envisioned his physical and emotional pain as it happened and thus their feelings of outrage.

The SI editorial on dog owner responsibility was also a good piece of journalism. Hopefully, it will put dog owner's on notice to take precautions in the future. One good outcome might be enacting leash laws in areas of Southern Illinois where none exist.

This isn't the first time the Southern has reported on a dog attack on a child. Maybe it's time for city and county officials to pass some ordinances that will control the problem. I know there is legislation about dog breeders but I'm not sure if it was passed by both house and senate yet.

Too many animals are being bred as a form of secondary income, as demonstrated by the SI's classified. Pet stores are advertising for puppies to sell and very little screening occurs prior to sale. Meanwhile, mixed breed puppies that are born because an owner didn't spay and neuter are being put down as shelters fill up and there is no funding to save these unwanted animals. "

Flank2 wrote on Jul 2, 2009 6:59 AM:

" I haven't said anything that isn't true. The bottom line is that a young life has ended in the most terrible way. First, I don't like how reporter(s) are taking either things said on this blog or taking word on the street as truth. Reporting should be checked and rechecked as fact or not printed. This hasn't been done in this incident & is really really poor journalism. I think the right thing to do is some printed corrections by this reporter.
Second, by definition every accident that occurs is preventable. However, accidents do happen & yes it took the life of a young child . But some people would rather condone & wants some type of criminal charge, than have some compassion for this family.
At least the investigators looked at this unbiased and looked for the truth & not public outcry. "

kay wrote on Jul 1, 2009 7:54 PM:

" Point well taken. :) "

wheezy321 wrote on Jul 1, 2009 6:08 PM:

" Kay, I've been reading your comments and I have to say, you are one astute woman.

Finally, a SI poster who is female and puts up a good fight. Love it!

But in defense of Flank2, some deeper research on the tragic event would have made for better journalism. From other reader comments on this terrible death, there is a lot of family dynamics that could have been explored to provide insight into Gabrial's life. May he rest in the arms of an angel. "

kay wrote on Jul 1, 2009 4:56 PM:

" Somehow flank2, I have a feeling you must be a relative of the mother's from all of your other comments on the previous articles. "

flank2 wrote on Jul 1, 2009 4:48 PM:

" I don't believe this story is correct in many ways. Just a couple to start, I read every story the Southern had and the Police always said that three dogs were running loose, Not Two. The bot lived with mom, he had just started having visits with his father. Come on Tara Fasol-Chambers, at least try to get it right. "

mrs.smith wrote on Jul 1, 2009 4:18 PM:

" I feel so bad for this little boy and my heart goes out to his family. "

JustAdad wrote on Jul 1, 2009 3:11 PM:

" I'm glad that it is illegal to have crocodiles running around our yards and sharks swimming in our pools or there might be more "accidents" happening to our kids. My parents were almost attacked by two mixed breed pit bulls on a state bike trail last week. They truly feared for their life. Luckily, the owner showed up just in time and explained that they were his "guard dogs" and had gotten loose. I guess this would have been ruled an accident also. I will walk this trail each day and will be prepared to protect myself from these "pets". I have a friend whose pit bull bit his own son in the face without provocation. Just do a little research and see that pit bulls account for over 1/3 of all fatal dog attacks in the U.S. (Mostly children) I know all pit bull owners hate hearing this but please do not mix pit bulls and children. It's like gambling that nothing bad will happen. To put it simply, pit bulls have a split personality, inbred, rooted and ingrained in them. They
WILL attack even those who love them, without reason. I know that it is never productive to assign blame but I truly believe that any parent that owns a dog that is known for mauling children year after year and feels that a screen is enough to protect that child from these dogs is just plain ignorant. I have a three year old boy and can only imagine the pain this boy's parents are feeling but I felt compelled to say something about this incident. It is our responsibility as parents to protect our children from these "accidents" so let's all learn from this. "