Nearly six months after at least two dogs fatally mauled Christina Bell in southeast Houston, homicide investigators have turned the case over to Harris County prosecutors.
City authorities initially responded to the attack by vicious dogs last January by issuing 12 misdemeanor citations to Tiara D. Thomas, 26, for allowing unvaccinated and unlicensed pit bull mixes to run loose. Animal control and Houston Police Department officials confirm that at least one of the animals attacked Bell, a 43-year-old often homeless woman.
In the ensuing months, the deceased woman’s husband, Benjamin Franklin Bell, has filed a negligence lawsuit against Thomas as well as her rental unit’s owner and the condo association that governs the complex where she resided. Harris County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff McShan said that District Attorney Devon Anderson will decide whether to present the case to a grand jury, but could not provide a timetable.
Legal experts say these kind of cases can prove challenging for prosecutors who sometimes take months or years to decide whether to pursue criminal convictions.
Texas law allows an owner to be criminally liable if his or her dog is unsecured and seriously injures or kills someone. If convicted, an owner whose pet is responsible for a person’s death is guilty of a second-degree felony and could face two to 20 years in prison.