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Pit bull mix kills week-old baby as mom sleeps

NEW PORT RICHEY - Just seven days old, the tiny baby's bloody body was covered with more than 50 puncture wounds as Jackie Welch tried in vain to help. "It scared ... me," Welch said. "I kept my mind together because I knew I had to do CPR to help revive him." Her efforts were not enough, however, and 1-week-old Thomas Carter Jr. died Wednesday afternoon after being mauled by a family pit bull mix described by one person as "lovable.'' The attack came in the same bed where the baby slept with his 16-year-old mother, Nicole Koezeno.
The boy's mother apparently slept through the attack and wasn't aware her baby was hurt until someone knocked on her bedroom door about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday. "She started screaming, 'My baby! My baby!,' said Welch, a neighbor who had spent the night there and was in the mobile home's hallway. "Then she said, 'My dog bit my baby; he's bleeding.' " Welch went into the bedroom to try to help. The baby wasn't breathing, so she administered CPR as someone else called 911. The baby was pronounced dead a short time later at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital. It was the second fatal mauling of a child in the Moon Lake Estates neighborhood in the last four months. "It's very painful and shocking," Welch said. "I feel guilty because I wasn't able to save him." Welch, 32, lives next door, but spent the night there with her 2-year-old son. She does that from time to time because her brother, Jonathon Gibson, and his girlfriend live with Koezeno and the baby's father, Thomas Carter Sr. She said the pit bull mix, Sidon, routinely slept in the bedroom with the baby and his parents. There is tension between Sidon and her brother's pit bull, Buddy, who spent the night in her brother's bedroom, she said. Welch said she woke up at 7 a.m. and never heard a sound from the dog. "The dog didn't make a noise or nothing - no growling, no barking, no nothing," Welch said. She heard the baby cry at about 9:30 a.m., but shortly afterward the baby became calm. "It cried for two minutes and that was it," Welch said. "After that I didn't hear nothing." Welch has known the dog since it was a puppy and said there has never been a problem, even with her child. She guessed the dog was about 3 years old. She described Koezeno and Carter, 20, as loving parents who cared for and doted on the baby. They came back from the hospital excited with their new bundle of joy. "They took very good care of him," Welch said. "They didn't leave him out of their sight." Welch warned that people with pit bulls should keep them away from children. "If people have pit bulls, they either need to get rid of them or put them in a fenced-in area in the back away from children," she said. "You never know when they're going to turn." Neighbors said Thomas Carter Sr. once lived at a nearby mobile home with several pit bulls. He brought Sidon with him when he moved into the mobile home at 10548 Olsen Str. in Moon Lake Estates. Deputies got the call just after noon. David Lance, Carter's boss, was with him mowing lawns when he got the call from Koezeno. "She called, frantic," Lance said. "He couldn't even understand her." Carter rushed to meet the family at the hospital. "That was his pride and joy," said Lance, who has worked with Carter for three years. "They were both proud parents." He said he was stunned to hear of the attack. He's known Sidon for years and said the dog often would be outside when they mowed Carter's lawn. "That dog was lovable," he said. Pasco Animal Services officers took the dog to their facilities in Land O' Lakes, said Denise Hilton, manager of the agency. The dog will be euthanized, but it wasn't clear when, Hilton said. She couldn't confirm if the second dog at the mobile home during the attack also was taken. "It's heartbreaking all around," Hilton said. "It's something that's horrific and you never want to happen." This is the second child in Pasco - and in Moon Lake - to be killed by a family dog since December. On Dec. 12, 22-month-old Dallas Lee Walters was mauled to death by a relative's Rottweiler-Labrador mix during a birthday party at his great-aunt's house at 9615 Jerome Drive. The 100-pound dog was euthanized a short time later. It was Pasco's first reported fatal animal attack in at least 35 years. Near the site of Wednesday's mauling, Winona Walker has a 19-month-old daughter and a pit bull, but she said she keeps the dog and child separated. She said she doesn't like to walk on that street because so many dogs roam loose. Hilton said pet owners must keep in mind that no matter how tame and loving a pet might seem, it's an animal with animal instincts that can be unpredictable. "Just in general, people should not trust animals around children," she said. "We, as adults, have to protect our children ... . Keep them (animals) away. It's the safest thing to ado." Hilton said she has no recorded animal complaints at the couple's current address but didn't immediately know if they had other complaints elsewhere.

Reporter Todd Leskanic contributed to this report.

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