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Mich. couple charged with murder after dogs fatally maul jogger

LAPEER, Mich. - A couple whose two dogs mauled a jogger on a rural Michigan road have been charged with murder, reports CBS Detroit.

Sebastiano Quagliata, 45, and Valbona Lucaj, 44, are due in Lapper District Court Friday on charges of second-degree murder and possessing a dangerous animal causing death, according to the station. Warrants were issued against the couple on Thursday.

Craig Sytsma, 46, of Livonia, Mich., was out jogging after work July 23 when he was attacked by two cane corso dogs in Metamora Township, 45 miles northwest of Detroit. The station reports he later died from his wounds.

In addition to the murder charges, federal authorities said Quagliata and Lucaj are Italian and Albanian, respectively, living in the U.S. illegally. A report in the Detroit Free Press stated they were facing imminent deportation at the time of the attack. It is unclear if their citizenship status will affect their trial.

Authorities said it was the third attack by the dogs in the past two years. The couple was apparently breeding dogs at their property, officials said.

A hearing scheduled for Friday to decide whether the two dogs involved in the attack - along with a third adult dog and multiple puppies - would be euthanized has been postponed, CBS Detroit reports. The dogs were removed from the couple's home days after the deadly attack.

"The indication from talking to my experts in animal control is that with that bloodline now, they just can't be trusted," Assistant Lapeer County Prosecutor Mike Hodges told the station. "We either seize the animals, put them down or adopt them out. And then if we adopt them out, we're nervous that they're going to come back and again it's, 'Well, you knew these were dangerous animals.'"

Hodges said the two cane corsos involved in the attack were maybe two-and-a-half feet tall.

"They are not huge, but they are quite aggressive," Hodges said. "I've never seen an adult mauling like this." He said the dogs have a history of escaping from their kennel and have bitten at least twice before.

Detroit-area attorney Glenn Saltsman told CBS Detroit he has two clients who were bitten by dogs while walking near Quagliata and Lucaj's property."[One man] said he thought the dogs were going to kill him," he said. "The adult dog bit him in the leg."

The other, April Smith, was attacked in May 2012 as she and her sister were walking their dog, according to the station. She sued the owners and reached a $20,000 settlement that has yet to be paid.

"The same corso charged from the house and just nailed her from behind," Saltsman said. "Bit her pretty good in the calf."

The station reports police looked into both incidents before turned the cases over to animal control officials. The owners were ticketed but the dogs were never removed, Saltsman said.

The American Kennel Club defines a cane corso as a muscular and large-boned dog, historically kept as a property watchdog that hunted wild boar. Today, they are known to be affectionate to their owner and bond closely with children and family. The large and athletic breed requires a lot of exercise but can be easily trained.

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