A "deeply horrified" Jacqueline McCuen waited to hear what charges she might face after her three pit bulls mauled a woman to death, her lawyer said.
McCuen's pit bulls attacked and killed Jennifer Brooke, 40, Sunday morning on her farm in Elbert County, investigators said. County officials expected to file charges by Friday.
"She is not the monster being portrayed in the media," McCuen's attorney, Michael Andre, said Thursday. "She is deeply horrified by the death."
The dogs also attacked Brooke's husband, Bjorn Osmunsen, 24, and a neighbor, Lynn Baker. The dogs were then shot and killed. Officials said Friday that the dogs tested negative for rabies.
The dogs lived with McCuen and her five daughters, ages 2 to 17, and were never before violent, Andre said.
"There were many children in that house and the dogs never were a threat," he said. The dogs' names were Eve, Baby and Face.
At one time McCuen had seven pit bulls but wasn't breeding them to fight, Andre said.
"She had two dogs and they had two litters," he said. "She kept some of the dogs and was able to sell some. You can get a hefty price for a purebred dog."
McCuen and her daughters left the home and allowed authorities to take two other pit bulls to a kennel.
McCuen faces a misdemeanor charge of owning a vicious dog after a neighbor, Diana Nichols, was mauled in April by two of McCuen's pit bulls. She is due in court in that case in January.
McCuen was fined $165 for animal violations when she lived in Aurora. The citations, filed in August 2002, included breeding dogs without a permit, owning unlicensed dogs and owning too many dogs.
Elbert County Short Staffed
In the meantime, the Elbert County sheriff has help from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to manage media inquiries.
"Due to limited resources in Elbert County, sufficient personnel are not available to respond to the significant increase in media inquiries. The Elbert County Sheriff's Office will continue to focus their attention to this exhaustive ongoing criminal investigation," said Elbert County Sheriff William Frangis.
There is a shortage of officers in Elbert County because the sheriff fired four officers and then the county instituted a hiring freeze, 7NEWS learned.
In a letter dated Nov. 25, 2003, Frangis wrote to Elbert County Commissioners John Metli, Steve Stutz, Debra Paulson, County Attorney Mark Scheffel, saying:
"During the past 10 months I have continually brought to the attention of the Board of County Commissioners, County Administrator and Legal Counsel a significant number of issues that have a direct impact on the safety of members of the Sheriff's Office and the citizens of Elbert County.
"These issues include deputies working by themselves without any backup, operating unsafe vehicles, depending on an obsolete and ineffective 911 communications system and a host of other issues. These same concerns have been brought to your attention by the County's insurance carrier's risk management expert in writing.
"The response from you has been the same answer to all of the issues, in that the County is in a dire financial crisis and we can't afford to make any corrections.
"I believe that answer and inaction is a deliberate indifference to the safety of my employees and the citizens of Elbert County. Any injury or death that results from not correcting these issues will have grave legal repercussions that will aggravate the financial situation of the County.
"For the sake of our employees and citizens I am asking you to reconsider your funding priorities and to help in preventing these situations from occurring.
On Sunday, it took 70 minutes for a deputy to reach Brooke's farm after Osmunsen called 911, pleading for help after the pit bull attack.
Whether a quicker response would have saved Brooke's life remains unclear. But authorities said the delay was largely because the deputy on duty at the time just arrived at another location to handle a domestic dispute.
"Bjorn asked, 'Is there anybody coming?"' said Johnette Curtis, who rents a home on the farm. "Then I heard him say, 'You mean there's nobody coming?'"
When there wasn't an immediate response from 911, Curtis told Osmunsen to hang up, and she called her daughter and son-in-law, Kristi and Brian Van Etten, and told them to bring guns. A short time later, Osmunsen found Brooke's body, broken and bloodied, in the horse arena next to the barn.
The sheriff's jurisdiction covers nearly 1,900 square miles and authorities rely on town police to help.
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