MAUSTON, Wis. – On Valentine's Day, 10-year-old Alicia Lynn Clark was at a friend's house doing one of her favorite things: playing with the family's dogs.
Hours later, she was mortally wounded, the victim of a vicious mauling by six Rottweilers that had answered her affection with violence.
The dogs' owners, who were not home during the attack, have been charged in the case, which echoes a dog mauling in San Francisco last year that left a woman dead. The owners in that case are on trial for charges ranging from murder to keeping a mischevious dog.
According to authorities, Alicia was pulled from a living room couch, dragged from room to room and bitten to death — despite her 11-year-old friend's attempts to kick and pull the animals away.
After about 15 minutes, Alicia lay on the dining room floor as her friend sat by her, keeping the dogs away, while waiting for her mother, Shanna McCracken, and McCracken's boyfriend, Wayne Hardy, to get home, a criminal complaint said.
Hardy, 24, and McCracken, 32, were charged with being parties to several crimes: homicide resulting from a vicious animal, reckless endangerment and child neglect.
Hardy and McCracken pleaded innocent to the misdemeanor counts of child neglect, but did not enter pleas to the felony charges. They were released on $10,000 bonds. Both declined comment on the case as they left the courthouse Wednesday.
District Attorney Dennis Schuh said the homicide count was chosen, rather than a stiffer charge, because it best fit the evidence. The charge carries a maximum 15-year sentence.
Authorities cited witnesses who said Hardy and McCracken told them the dogs were very aggressive. A health specialist who visited the home after the attack told police the furniture had been chewed and there were piles of dog feces throughout the home.
"I know I shouldn't have had all those dogs there. ... I know it was wrong to do. She was just a little girl," Hardy told police the day of the attack, according to the criminal complaint.
The dogs had also nipped at both girls in the past and killed a cat two months before the attack, McCracken's daughter told police. The dogs were euthanized after the mauling.
Hardy's lawyer, Daniel Berkos, filed a motion to dismiss the charges against his client.
"What we're maintaining is that there was no knowledge on anybody's part that these dogs were vicious," Berkos said. "I don't think that nipping at somebody in a playful manner or as a puppy would constitute knowledge that a dog is capable of something like this."
Alicia, described by residents as a sweet, bashful and athletic fourth-grader, was looking forward to her first cheerleading meet and a father-daughter bowling outing with her Girl Scout troop.
Her friend told police Alicia was petting one of four 6-month-old puppies in the home when one of the two adult dogs apparently got jealous and started attacking.
When the animals were removed from the home they were coated in blood, according to the vet who examined them.
McCracken faces up to 38 years in prison if convicted of all charges. Hardy faces up to 72 years in prison because he has prior felony convictions for burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Both face up to a $70,000 fine.
Hardy's preliminary hearing was set for April 16. McCracken's next court date is June 4.
Police also cited Hardy for owning more than three dogs, having unlicensed dogs, having no proof of a dog's vaccination and having animal feces in his yard.
Alicia's parents, James Clark and Tammy Shiflett, have filed a wrongful death claim against Juneau County, claiming authorities failed to investigate reports of dog abuse that could have led to the discovery that the owners were keeping six dogs in their residence in violation of a city ordinance.
Alicia's parents also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hardy and McCracken.
The attack has left residents in the city of 1,500 shaken, and many people who live in the area said they were not surprised by the severity of the charges.
"Amen," said Gary Jensen, 48, of nearby Tomah. "I think that's fair and just."