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Lapeer County Couple Ordered To Stand Trial For Murder In Dog Mauling

LAPEER (WWJ) - It's a first of a kind case in the state of Michigan. A Lapeer County couple has been ordered to stand trial on second degree murder charges after their dogs mauled a jogger to death.

Reporting from Lapeer District Court on Friday, WWJ's Jon Hewett said the decision stunned family and friends of the accused: 45-year-old Sebastiano Quagliata and his wife, 44-year-old Valbona Lucaj.

The ruling also came as a surprise to defense attorney Jason Malkowitz.

"For all my law school teachings, murders require some sort of intent — and there was no issue of intent here," Malkowitz said. "Obviously what happened here was a tragic accident. It may ride to the level of negligence, but negligence isn't murder."

Craig Sytsma, of Livonia, was out for a jog after work in late July when he was attacked by two dogs in Metamora Township, about 45 miles northwest of Detroit. He later died from his wounds.

Authorities said it was the third attack by Quagliata and Lucaj's dogs in the past two years. The couple was apparently breeding the animals on their property, according to authorities.

Prosecutor Michael Hodges said both defendants knew their dogs — a pair of 100-pound cane corsos — were dangerous.

"All the other incidents, all the other knowledge ... the vet visits, and the other bites, and the lawsuits. They knew what the propensity these animals could do, and did do," Hodges said. "The circumstances are egregious enough that there's enough knowledge, enough notice, there's enough bad faith here that we can bump it up to murder of the second-degree."

Following Friday's court appearance, Quagliata and Lucaj were remanded back to the Lapeer County Jail on $500,000 person bond pending their next court appearance later this month.

The two dogs that killed Sytsma were euthanized. Eight puppies also removed from the home were sterilized and taken to a Texas shelter. They'll spend time in foster homes for socialization and training in hope they could be fit for adoption.

MORE: Couple Whose Dogs Fatally Mauled Jogger Charged With Murder
Puppies Seized After Fatal Dog Attack Going To Texas

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