RIVERVIEW — Logan Sheppard’s family made sure he was taken care of when they went into another room to smoke marijuana on the night of July 19, authorities said.
They gave the little boy some ice cream and put a 15-year-old relative in charge of baby-sitting while they were in the other room. And most importantly, Logan’s uncle made sure his two pit bulls were in their pen in the home’s fenced yard.
But nobody realized that the 4-year-old had wandered outside, authorities said. And the family didn’t know that the dogs had escaped their pen.
Logan’s death was a tragic accident, the State Attorney’s Office said Tuesday, announcing that no charges will be filed against Logan’s family, which has been left to pick up the pieces after the little boy was fatally mauled by the two dogs.
“We’re taking it hour by hour,” said Michael Sheppard, Logan’s dad.
Sheppard said he was at work at the time of his son’s death. Sheppard had known for a few days that police weren’t going to charge Logan’s mother with a crime, but he didn’t know until a reporter told him Tuesday morning that no charges would be filed against Logan’s aunt and uncle, Delores and Billy Fredericks Sr., who owned the two dogs.
Sheppard declined to comment on the lack of charges, saying his lawyer had instructed him not to discuss the incident.
In a memo to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, State Attorney Mark Ober said there is no evidence that the family members criminally neglected the little boy and that prosecutors will not be pursuing child neglect or manslaughter charges.
Ober said a charge of culpable negligence would require proof that the caregiver knowingly did something that would cause death or great bodily harm to the child.
“The evidence does not indicate that anyone responsible for caring for the child neglected the child knowingly, intentionally and purposely,” Ober wrote. “Instead, the evidence indicates that the death of the child was a tragic event brought on by a mistaken belief that the dogs had been secured in a pen in the yard.”
The adults admitted they were smoking marijuana in another room at the time the dogs attacked, but because no drugs were recovered from the house, prosecutors aren’t pursuing marijuana possession charges, Ober continued.
“While the decisions and actions of the caregivers can certainly be questioned, those acts or omissions do not prove culpable negligence beyond a reasonable doubt,” he wrote.
“It’s tragic,” said State Attorney’s office spokesman Mark Cox. “It’s terribly tragic.”
The night of the attack, Logan and his mother, Stephanie Groulx, had walked about a half-mile from their home to her sister and brother-in-law’s house on Rhodine Road, deputies said. Once inside, the adults went into another room, leaving Logan in the care of a 15-year-old.
The little boy somehow made his way out into the yard, where the dogs attacked, police said. The family said they didn’t know how the dogs got out of their pens.
The family rushed out of the house when they heard Logan screaming, authorities said. The boy’s screams also attracted the attention of Hillsborough deputies who were conducting a traffic stop nearby.
They found the dogs standing over the boy’s body. Logan died at the scene.
The Fredericks voluntarily surrendered the two grown, female dogs to Hillsborough County Animal Services, and they were euthanized the day after attack, spokeswoman Marti Ryan said. The dogs had no prior history of aggression.
From his front yard Tuesday morning, Sheppard, who has three pit bulls of his own, said his son loved mud-bogging and looking at big trucks and machines. Logan never wanted help with anything, his father said. He wanted to do everything on his own.
“He touched a lot of hearts,” Sheppard said.