Son says trauma of April pit bull attack in Branford played role in death of elderly woman

Rita Pepe

BRANFORD >> The 93-year-old woman who in April was attacked by a runaway pit bull has died.

Charlie Pepe said his mother, Rita Pepe, of 22 McKinnel Court, probably died of kidney failure but added that doctors told him the trauma and extended inactivity as a result of the attack accelerated her condition.

Its all related in one way or another, he said.

Pepe said the owners of Booker, the pit bull responsible for the attack and who had been adopted from the towns Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter last September, have always been family friends and added they feel devastated over the April 13 mauling.

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Its just one of those freak things, he said.

Rita Pepes obituary states she died peacefully at home on May 25.

Charlie Pepe, a North Carolina resident, said he was on the golf course the day of the attack. He said he received a call from his brother informing him their mother was being taken to the hospital.

You sit there and make a list of why a 93-year-old woman is on her way to the hospital, he said. I figured she fell or had a stroke. Never figured it was because of being bitten by a pit bull.

Pepe said he and his wife and son immediately drove from North Carolina to Branford to be with his mother.

The April 13 police report states that after Bookers owner, Matthew Radulski, took the dog for a walk, he walked back inside his house. He reportedly told police that once he took the leash off of Booker the dog ran out the back door. Police state that Radulski ran after the dog and discovered a group of people standing at the corner of Harbor Street and McKinnel Court, just steps from his house. The group was yelling for help and Radulski told police he saw Booker circling Rita Pepe. Radulski added that he was forced to strike Booker over the head numerous times with a rock in order to get him away from Pepe.

Pepe suffered a severe bite to her lower left leg, according to the report.

Charlie Pepe said that while hes sad over his mothers death, he also feels bad for the Radulski family.

Itd be different if someone was raising pit bulls for fighting, he said. But this was a different situation. The dog got loose and its one of those things you cannot anticipate.

Nobody answered the door at the Radulskis home Tuesday afternoon.

As for Booker, it was unclear if the dog has been euthanized. Shelter Director Laura Burban could not be reached Tuesday afternoon. A shelter employee declined to comment.

Burban had previously said the town has no authority over whether a dog is euthanized. She noted that the final decision rests with a court judge and the dogs owner. Burban added that prior to adoption Booker never expressed a propensity for violence and underwent extensive evaluations conducted by staff and trainers.

Bookers online adoption listing described him as a 16-month-old terrier mix weighing 60 pounds.

He is a friendly dog who loves to play, the listing stated. He would do best in a home without cats. He is neutered, house-trained and up to date with shots.

Call Evan Lips at 203-789-5727. Have questions,feedback or ideas about our news coverage? Connect directly with the editors of the New Haven Register at AskTheRegister.com.

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