Investigators honored an 80-year-old man's dying wish Tuesday when they dropped the criminal probe into the pack of dogs that mauled him earlier this month.
In the days he rested in a hospital before his death, double amputee Carlton Freeman said he didn't want anyone to get in trouble for the dogs' behavior.
Though Freeman's neighbor on Spring Branch Road continued to claim ownership of the animals Tuesday, the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office dubbed the dogs feral.
Freeman's family agreed with investigators' decision not to ticket or charge anyone, the Sheriff's Office said.
An attempt Tuesday to reach the relatives by telephone was not successful, but they said last week that they harbored no anger toward their neighbor, 61-year-old Barbara Goodwin.
“I'm so sorry this happened,” Goodwin said Tuesday. “I would do anything if I could have kept it from happening.”
Goodwin never took the dogs to a veterinarian and never allowed them inside, sheriff's Lt. Tony Phinney.
They also hung around a shed that wasn't on her land. Neighbors in the community all described the four dogs as pit bulls
That she had fed the dogs weighed on Goodwin's conscience, but Phinney said that didn't make her responsible for the mauling.
“They are not hers by any definition,” he said. “She didn't buy them, they have never been in her house.”
The animals attacked Freeman before 3 p.m. May 8 as he moved in his electric wheelchair at Spring Branch and Dunnings roads, near his home. Freeman had lost his legs because of an infection caused by diabetes, and he used the wheelchair to get around. He died four days later at Trident Hospital.
Goodwin said earlier this month that she had expected a ticket for letting the dogs run loose, but Freeman never blamed her for the attack, his relatives said.
Phinney added that Goodwin would throw table scraps to the animals but that they had always roamed freely.
Investigators consulted with prosecutors, animal control experts and County Coroner Chris Nisbet and agreed to close the case without charges, Phinney said. Goodwin's comments Tuesday differed from the Sheriff's Office statement that all four dogs were feral.
She reiterated that she had “owned” three of them but that the fourth was wild. They were mixed breeds; two were puppies.
But Goodwin said detectives had informed her that they were dropping the case, so she declined to talk further about it. She instead deferred to the statement she had given to the authorities, who did not immediately release the document.
After the attack, three bloodied dogs were captured near her home. They had been scheduled to be euthanized Monday, but whether that happened was not known. Animal control officers set traps for the fourth.
The dog was spotted about a week ago, Phinney said, but it remains in the wild.