The savage killing of Rebecca Hardy by a pit bull and a pit bull-husky mix on December 3 in her neighbor’s yard in Port Huron, Michigan, was puzzling from the start. The bizarre case turned from mysterious to preposterous when the medical examiner ruled the barbaric attack as a suicide merely five days later.
Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic stated that Rebecca’s entering a yard with pit bulls was “akin to someone jumping into a cage with tigers or lions at a zoo.” He is correct in the comparison between the catastrophic damage these animals can inflict. His assertion, however, that Rebecca believed these dogs were killers and purposely climbed over the fence to end her own life by them isn’t logical and it doesn’t add up.
She had many pit bulls within her circle of friends and family – she did not equate pit bulls with death. According to Tracy Weaver, a resident in the neighborhood, these particular dogs escaped frequently. After close scrutiny of the property from the news report, it’s easy to see how. The yard is partially enclosed with a wood fence, six feet high at the most. But the other portion, not highlighted in the coverage as nearly as much, shows a short, dilapidated chain link fence, appearing tilted at an angle. The dogs could have easily gotten out again, and hauled Rebecca into the yard just like pit bulls did to four-year-old Xavier Strickland the day before in Detroit.
Xavier’s mother and neighbors witnessed his beastly abduction and subsequent dragging of his body under the gate 30 feet away, where a horrifying lethal mauling was forced upon him. If there had been no witnesses, like this case, many people would have also accused him of getting onto the property himself and provoking the dogs.
Perhaps Dr. Dragovic failed to realize how incredibly athletic and powerful pit bulls are, and that someone as petite as Rebecca would have no chance in a similar type of attack. Maybe he’s unaware these types of assaults aren’t unusual.
The young mother’s family doesn’t believe the ruling of suicide at all. They have shared with the media that she was not depressed and was looking forward to Christmas with her precious daughter. She was optimistic about the future and excited over the prospect of planning another baby with her fiancé Matt Grattan.
Previous suicide rulings by the medical examiner have been challenged, and Michigan has an above average rate for suicides according to CDC. In part of the explanation for Dragovic’s decision, he said Hardy had been suicidal in the past. Women that take their own lives typically do so in far less violent ways. Carbon monoxide poisoning and overdosing on prescriptions pills are common methods.
Merritt Clifton, the editor and investigative reporter of Animals 24-7, has been logging fatal dog attacks for 33 years, more than 600 of them in the U.S. and Canada, and more than 1,000 altogether. He said he has never before encountered a case ruled to be suicide. Yet the family and public are expected to believe this beautiful 22-year-old woman, so full of love and life, intentionally exposed herself to torturously being ripped apart and eaten alive in one of the most agonizing deaths possible? Proof beyond doubt is needed for such an absurd decision. What’s been presented so far is entirely speculative.
A suicide ruling would leave Rebecca’s family with a difficult basis upon which to seek justice and collect damages from a landlord and tenant who may be liable for her death.
The handling of this case has been suspicious as well. The name of the dog’s owner was not made public to the media like it was done in the fatal attack of Xavier Strickland. The name of the landlord was also kept secret. On the property record for the City of Huron, the owner listed is James Spadafore. He also owns about a dozen other similar rental homes.
I called Lieutenant James Spadafore at the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office to ask if he was the owner of the house. He said he wouldn’t comment on the case and that he didn’t know if I understood how state laws worked, but if I called the Sherriff’s Office again they would take legal action.
An additional twist is the involvement of pro-pit bull animal rights attorney, Jayne Labuda-Szymanski who owns, promotes and rescues pit bulls. The owner of the killer canines and their four puppies originally gave consent for the dogs to be euthanized. But at the eleventh hour a letter rescinding consent was issued through the lawyer. The two adult dogs and one puppy had already been euthanized. Jayne took the remaining puppies that were only three weeks old.
In Michigan, SB 239 was quietly being pushed through the legislature before Xavier’s killing. SB 239 passes an amendment to the state’s constitution to take away the rights of local governments to pass ordinances regulating any dogs by breed. The additional fatal pit bull attack of Rebecca the very next day was damaging to the agenda of the well-funded pit bull lobby.
Many questions are being asked by the public: Why the suicide ruling? What was the role of the pit bull lobbyists? Who are the owners of these killer dogs? Does James Spadafore or any of these individuals have a relationship to St. Clair County Sheriff’s office or Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic?
This story has gone international, and people around the world who are closely following it seek answers. Everyone responsible for this needless killing should be held accountable in order to provide Rebecca’s 18-month-old child with everything she needs in the future. Molly does not deserve to grow up believing her mother left her alone on purpose, and her family deserves to know the truth.
WXYZ Detroit showed the chain link fencing. Many others only showed it from the side with the higher wood fencing.
Fox2 Detroit’s interview with Rebecca’s mom after the suicide ruling.
This ridiculous re-enactment indicates the impression many people had based on the way the story has been reported: