GRAHAM, Texas – A couple whose pit bulls fatally mauled their 7-year-old neighbor were sentenced to seven years in prison, the first conviction under a new Texas law that holds owners responsible if their dogs injure or kill someone.
Crystal Michelle Watson, 28, and Jack Wayne Smith, 45, were convicted Thursday of a dog attack resulting in death. The law says owners are guilty if their unsecured dogs injure or kill a person in an unprovoked attack off their property; those convicted can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
"I compared it to someone leaving a gun out in front of children," Stephens County District Attorney Stephen Bristow told The Associated Press, recalling what he told jurors during the trial last week.
After the couple were sentenced Friday, state District Judge Stephen Crawford said both defendants would be eligible for release on $150,000 bond pending appeal, which is allowed for certain crimes with sentences of less than 10 years. Watson and Smith had not posted bail and remained in custody Monday.
Attorneys for the couple did not immediately return calls to the AP seeking comment.
Witnesses testified that on May 18, Tanner Joshua Monk walked toward Smith and Watson's house to play with some children, Bristow said. That afternoon, his body was found in a ditch surrounded by four pit bulls, authorities have said.
The law enacted last year is called Lillian's Law after Lillian Stiles, 76, who was killed by a pack of dogs as she tended to flowers in her yard in 2005.