FRANKFORT, Maine — No one at the tidy wooden house on Town Hill Road wanted to talk Wednesday about the life or death of the 7-month-old baby who reportedly had been mauled to death there the previous evening by the family dog.
Little Annabelle Mitchell was found dead in her living room, according to police.
“Let the poor little darling be up in heaven with God,” said a woman who was seen outside the rural home but declined to give her name.
Annabelle had been home with her mother, 29-year-old Katrina Mitchell, and 2½-year-old brother on Tuesday when the family’s Rottweiler attacked her, according to a press release issued Wednesday by the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Katrina Mitchell called 911 to report the attack, and Frankfort Animal Control Officer Richard Crossman Sr., who also is an emergency medical technician, said that he got the call a little before 7 p.m.
“It’s a very sad tragedy,” he said.
Responding officials found the baby dead at the residence, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Her death may be the first time a dog has killed a person in recent history in the state of Maine, he said.
“I went back through the records 40 years, and there hasn’t been one in 40 years,” McCausland said.
The baby’s father, 32-year-old John Mitchell, asked a Waldo County deputy to shoot the Rottweiler to death, McCausland said.
No charges in connection with Annabelle’s death have been filed.
State police are continuing to investigate, with a team of detectives spending Tuesday night at the home gathering evidence and conducting interviews.
An autopsy on the baby’s body began Wednesday at the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta and will be continued Thursday, according to the spokesman.
Crossman said he never had received a complaint about the dog before, which was the only dog in the home. The Mitchells had complained before that their neighbor’s dogs were fighting, Crossman said.
Some in the lunchtime crowd that had gathered Wednesday at Wilson’s Country Market, close to the home, said that they had just heard about the baby’s death.
“I wanted to puke,” said one man, who did not give his name. “Rottweilers are nasty dogs. People shouldn’t keep Rottweilers around kids.”
But Crossman, the animal control officer, said that any dog can be aggressive.
“You never know what could set a dog off,” he said.
According to the American Kennel Club, Rottweilers love people, are protective of their territory and do not welcome strangers until properly introduced.
“Obedience training and socialization are musts,” said the AKC website.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, resulting in 16 deaths on average. A CDC study on fatal dog bites lists the breeds involved in fatal human attacks in the U.S. between 1979 and 1998, but it does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill.
Two dog attacks made headlines recently in Maine. In January, a LaGrange man was attacked by his male pit bull and forced to barricade himself in a room in his mobile home along with another person. They called 911 to report the mauling and said that the dog was chewing its way through the door.
The 29-year-old man was treated at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for bite and puncture wounds on his neck, legs and arms, and the dog was euthanized.
A much more serious attack also happened in LaGrange in November. Karen Stewart, 41, who lives in the Mattawamkeag area, lost an arm after being mauled by an American bulldog mix on Forest Street. Stewart was visiting friends when she was attacked, according to previous reports in the BDN.
Dog owner Adam Bemis, 28, was convicted in absentia and received the maximum sentence allowed under civil law in February.
District Court Judge Kevin L. Stitham ordered Bemis to pay a $1,000 fine, to permanently tattoo and install identifying microchips in any dogs he might have, and to confine his dogs to locked and fenced areas except when being taken to veterinarians.