Saturday, January 30, 2010

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Somebody Needs To Be Located, Served And Sued For Pit Bull Attack Horror...

Images contributed by John Fena, blog post by John Hoff

Two years ago, almost to the day, John Fena and his partner Edwin witnessed their small, adorable dog killed by pit bulls WITHIN THEIR OWN FENCED OFF BACK YARD IN NORTH MINNEAPOLIS.

Both men tried, desperately, to rescue their little dog--called Gretchen--and both men sustained injuries from the two vicious, wandering, unleashed pit bulls...who managed to kill the little dog anyway. 

The horrific attack was the subject of a story on KARE-11, click here for a link.

It is no mystery who the owners of the pit bulls were, some no-accounts who lived at 1419 Girard Ave. N., Apartment Number 2. Their names and birthdays are as follows: Willis Keith White, January 9, 1969 and Chantell Deneice Isanda, March 17, 1969.

However, Willis and Chantell no longer live at that location, as one might expect of mobile and footloose fancy free no accounts. They've moved somewhere else and, well, who knows where?

But John and Edwin would like to locate Willis and Chantell so they can be served with a lawsuit and sued. The fact both Willis and Chantell are probably "judgment proof" (too poor to be worth suing) makes no difference to John and Edwin. They want to sue the thugs anyway. And I say, hey, let's help 'em find the thugs.

Any reader who has information about the whereabouts of Willis and Chantell should--pretty please--submit the info through the blog comments. If you want to submit a comment and NOT HAVE IT PUBLISHED, say so very clearly at the beginning of the comment, so I can receive the info but not publish it.

And now, exclusive to this blog, is the horrific firsthand account of John Fena...

By email, John Fena says as follows...

There were three men with 2 pit bulls that were unleashed/loose in our alley that night. Edwin had taken both our dogs to go potty before coming to bed. He heard the collars and saw the dogs roaming/sniffing outside of our fence and yelled at the men to leash their dogs. I heard him yelling, raced downstairs (buck naked) and came outside... he told me what was going on, I yelled for Gretchen to come in.

As she turned, one of the pits jumped the fence and raced towards her. Gretchen ran towards me and I reached to grab her just as the first pit clamped down on one of her legs. It was like fumbling a football. I thought I could get a hold of her, and then the other pit grabbed a hold. We were in a tug-of-war for her, all the time I was just thinking I could save her if I could get a hold of her...even through the breaking/cracking sounds/ taking apart a cooked chicken. I was on the ground/ice/dirt naked, screaming, wrestling these dogs all the way into our back entryway.

I finally got a hold of her because one of the men had casually walked into our entry and gently taken them by the collar. At no point during the attack did any of the men try to help, call off the dogs, or anything...they stood on the other side of the fence and watched it all play out. I finally got my grip on her, ran inside, and realized she was dead in my arms. Edwin had been knocked unconscious and was laying face-down on the sidewalk...he had been wrestling the back end of one of these massive dogs to try and get them off me and Gretchen.

The men took off w/ the dogs, didn't try to help or anything. I called 911 and dealt with that, then instinctively called KARE 11 to tell them what had just happened. FOX9 showed up at our door, also, the next day...and we got a call from Star Trib and also WCCO. Animal Care & Control received a tip and came to our home the next day. We were able to identify the dogs.

Then the owners fled the city with their dogs once they were informed that they would need to release their dogs to ACC for quarantine, a standard procedure in an animal attack. It took a week until they finally complied and came back to the city. It took SO MUCH (expletive) effort/work to get those dogs put down, which happened nearly a month after Gretchen had been killed. It took several more months until we were finally given access to the owners' info and at that point had confirmed that they lived only a couple streets away from us.

* * *

JNS blog says: OK, let's pull together our collective skills and resources to obtain the current location of these thugs, so they can be served and sued.


Anonymous said...

What really needs to happen is an ordinance that requires either renters, or homeowners insurance if you're going to own a pit-bull(s).

In a very similar fashion, you cannot buy an automobile and register it (and drive it off the lot) without a dirvers license and proof of insurance.

Plain and simple, if you don't have the insurance to cover a dangerous dog living in a metro area, and provide it when you purchase the dog, then you can't buy the dog.

If you do buy the dog without the required insurance and something like this happens, then you get fined and go to jail.

Make no mistake about it, reporting this case to the police and even suing the owner(s), isn't going to bring any form of relief to the victim.

The owner(s) is/are more than likely judgement-proof in that they don't own anything.

Pit-Bulls are potentially every bit as lethal as a handgun. Especially with uninformed owners....

Anonymous said...

To the Anon420: while I can appreciate your desire to see some control/legislaitons - requiring insurance is going to be followed about as closely as, oh, saym NOT walking down the middle of the street. There are pit bulls being bred all over this neighborhood, and I imagine a good amount of IN-breeding. These thugs that covet the pit bull breed are going to careless about an ordinance requiring insurace. Heck, they are probably driving around in their hoopty car with no insurance.

I say go after the home based breeders.

Ranty said...

In a conversation with my homeowners' insurance agent a few years ago, the question of dog-bite liability came up, and I learned that I had something like up to $300,000 of coverage in my standard plan.

So, it may be worth some investigation to see if the owner of the property where these animals lived had anything similar.

Ranty said...

PS My condolences again to John and Edwin - what a HORRIFIC experience. :-(

MeganG. said...

I see that the id card for the man expires in one year. If worse case scenario, he will have to get a new one then and a new address. That's a long time to wait - someone here on JNS will come through with the info.

veg*nation said...

this is such a horrifying story. i think a lot of us dog owners live in fear of this very thing--i'm so sorry that it happened to this family.

one thing i hope this story motivates us all to do is to be consistent about reporting loose pit bulls, and their owners. they put us all at risk.

Anonymous said...

Since the pit bull owners were tenants, the first thing I'd do is report the incident to Rental Research and any other rental research firms John and Edwin can find so it becomes a permanent part of their rental history.

If any of the rental research firms won't accept the victims' documentation of the story, John and Edwin should contact the landlord who rented to them and ask them to cooperate - it would be a small thing for that landlord to do.

If they can't track them down - at least they may make it impossible for these folks to ever rent a decent place again!

Anonymous said...

If I am not mistaken, the landlord (owner) probably has some liability in this matter (financially) as well.

I would suspect that the judge hearing the matter would allow that the landlord be required to provide the plaintiff with a copy of the lease agreement, if in fact there was one. Unless the landlord can/could prove that the tennant somehow was in violation of the lease agreement by having these pits as pets, then he's liable as well I believe.

One of my partners is an attorney that practices insurance law for our company and he's already told me that he'd take this case on a contingency basis if it were located in Florida where we operate.

If it were me, I would definitely have the landlord named as a defendant in the lawsuit as well.

Anonymous said...

First rule in lawsuits of this type is to "cast a wide net" and let the court decide who's liable.

I suspect that the court will decide that the landlord does indeed have liability on this issue, unless it can be demonstrated that the pits were being kept without his approval AND his knowledge on the premises.

If it turns-out he had liability insurance on the property, the only issue left to decide was whether or not he was committing insurance insurance fraud by allowing the animals to be there. My guess is that he was.

In either case, I'd believe that either the landlord's insurance carrier, or he personally, will inevitablly be held liable in a court of law for the actions of his tennants, unless they can prove that the tennant was keeping the pits in direct conflict with the specific rental agreement.


Johnny Northside said...

I was getting set to comment about the same thing when those last two comments came in. Yeah, totally. SUE THE LANDLORD. The landlord might have a good idea where these no-accounts went, since he would have mailed their deposit back to them.

If anything was left after damages.

The landlord is easy to find and, heck, the landlord would actually have money or insurance. And, really, landlords who tolerate this thuggish activity are just as responsible as the thugs themselves.

Anonymous said...

I'll bring this up with my partner again tomorrow and forward a legal opinion as to how to proceed, should these poor guys want to incoporate the landlord in the suit.

If they're looking for justice and meaningful change, then I'd definitely name the landlord in the suit. Maybe he'd think twice about renting to people suc as this again the next time around.

I know from experience this is a much bigger problem than what is mentioned. I personally had to fight-off pits twice that attacked my wife, I and our two dogs when I lived in NOMI. It's a horrific experience to say the least.


Anonymous said...

There is no 'rental research firm' that keeps a database of renters like the anon commenter suggested. A random person can not just call up a rental history research/screening company and make some claim against them.

A rental research firm works in such a way that any address that comes back on a renter's credit history is researched, the landlord/owner/manager is attempted to be contacted, and a reference is given at that point in time. So it would be up to the 'new' owner to make inquiries and the old owner to give an accurate reference. Which alot of the time they give a vague reference so they can't be held liable for some sort of discrimination or slander when the crappy tenant gets denied for a bad reference.

Johnny Northside said...


Looking forward to that research about suing the landlord. Behind the scenes here at Johnny Northside Dot Com, there is a debate about whether it makes sense to sue the landlord, whether there is any real legal liability, deep pockets, etc.

I say SUE THE LANDLORD. But I can also see how the landlord could try to raise many equitable defenses.

Also, I find it hard to believe that when you have somebody's name, birthday, and drivers license number, that it would be so difficult to find that person...I just see it as a matter of having access to the right database.

Anonymous said...

JNS. I can tell you witout any hesitancy that there is liability on the part of the insurer if in fact the landlord has liability insurance on the property. If he has a mortgage then he has liability.

I can also tell you unequivocally that the stance of the liability insurer will be to settle out-of court and invoke suborgation.

I'll check the mechinics on how to proceed exactly tomorrow.


Johnny Northside said...

Using the name and birthdate for Willis White, I turned up the following criminal record and another really key piece of info, stay tuned...

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction
Traffic - DWI - Fourth-Degree Driving While Impaired; Described
4th Degree - DWI - Operate Motor Vehicle - Alcohol Concentration 0.08 Within 2 Hours
Traffic - Open bottle law; Possession; crime described
Drivers License-Driving Without a Valid License or Vehicle Class/Type; Multiple Licenses Prohibited

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Domestic Assault - Harm.
Domestic Assault - Fear
Assault in the Fifth Degree - Harm.
Assault in the Fifth Degree - Fear
Disorderly Conduct

For the last incident, Willis White was put on probation from 5/19/2009 to 5/19/2011. So he is still on probation with HENNEPIN COUNTY COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS.

Maybe this guy can be located through his probation officer.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you with out a doubt that after working in landlord/tenant business for a decade, that suing the landlord for something that happened AWAY from the property is NOT going to fly.

That insurance company is NOT going to accept any liability for dogs that, I can GUARANTEE you, were not authorized pets, and that the dogs behaved badly while two blocks away from the insured property - extremely UNLIKELY that action against the owner and his property insurance is going to be successful.

I just hate to see any hopes get raised on that front when these two people have already been through so much living hell.

I'm sure their attorney has already explored that route. This happened two years ago and if it were that easy to go after the landlord and his insurance, I doubt they would be casting out a net for the thugs two years later.

I'm just saying.

Anonymous said...

JNS, property insurance is broken-down into sub categories, such as dwelling, contents, AL&E, liability, etc...

Last time I checked, Minnesota was a no-fault state when it came to liability insurance. Part of the reason this has come into play over the years is that insurance carriers were continually using the "three D's". Delay, deny & defend in their stance against liability claims. Both legitimate and fraudalent.

This is clearly a case where if the landlord has liability insurance, his carrier will pay on the claim and suborgate the pay-out as legally required.

The real question that remains is whether or not there was liability insurance on the property.

I don't expect it'd be too difficult to find a top-notch insurance attorney in Mpls to handle this claim at about a 30% contigency basis. The fee will be required because this is viewed as a third-party claim and typically attorneys' fees are not awarded as part of the settlement.

veg*nation said...

are people on probation allowed to own dangerous animals? if he owned these pit bulls during any of the same time that he was on probation, it would be nice if this could be proved to be a violation and used to get this guy sent back to jail.

Johnny Northside said...

That's certainly a great question. Also, there may be more than one probationary period here--I know of one for sure, but I didn't have time to check the rest of the criminal record before the court system website went down for 3 hours for system maintenance.

For that matter, I didn't have time to check the woman's record AT ALL. But I'm very hopeful that the probation factor will somehow be the break which allows these two thugs to be located.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:10am:

My personal belief and experience tells me otherwise. A loss does not necessarily have to happen on the premises for the claim to be valid.

I just completed a liability claim where we maxed-out the liability coverage ($1 million)on a claim where none of the loss (paid-out) occured on the premises.

What needs to be proven is the negligence that led-up to the loss on the part of the insured - the landlord and the insurer.

The types of questions that need to be asked (and a GOOD attorney would ask them):

1. Was there a lease agreement?
2. Did the lease have exclusions for dangerous pets?
3. Did the rental property have a fenced-in yard?
4. Was the fence in good repair?
5. Did the landlord ever see the pits on premises?
6. Did the insurer inspect the premises? They certainly had the right to, it's in the policy.
7. How did the pits get out of their yard? Was it possibly through a fence in a state of disrepair?
8. Did the landlord make reasonable efforts to remedy the problem, if he knew it existed?

Don't be too sure that the liability coverage (of the landlord) if in fact the landlord appropriately had liability coverage, wouldn't cover this incident.

Here's a good litmus test for negligence:

*It was the landlord's responsibility to maintain the portion of premises that caused the accident.
*The landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident.
*Fixing the problem (or at least giving adequate warnings) would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult.
*A serious injury was the probable consequence of not fixing the problem (the accident was foreseeable).
*The landlord's failure -- his negligence -- caused the accident.

Anonymous said...

thank you everyone for the thoughtful feedback. i feel like we have a few routes to explore in holding them accountable.

this is such a serious issue... and you just don't really think about it until it touches you or someone you know.

it's tough to step back into this mess... but we feel that these people must be held accountable on some front. it would be ideal to ban them from ever owning a dog of any sort again... but that's certainly unrealistic.

thanks again, and we look forward to more feedback!

john & edwin

MeganG. said...

It sounds like to me that the pit bull owners were taking them for a walk, off-leash. It does not sound like the pit bulls got out of their own yard, through a fence. The story says the pit bull owners were in the alley and the pit bulls were off leash. The address on the drivers license is a couple of blocks over from John and Edwin's. Girard vs. Emerson.

I'm glad they are pursuing this. I hope they keep us informed of what is going on, how we can help and support them as a community.

And for all you foodies out there - check out John's food blog at

Anonymous said...

About the only thing I am able to surmise with any accuracy from the first-person account is that there were three individuals with two pits in the back alley area of the residence.

It doesn't really say with any clarity how the pits got there, or even if the any of the three guys were in fact the owners of the dogs.

And quite frankly, I think it'd be conjecture to speculate anything further. Unless of course those that were in the back alley with the dogs were identified and admitted to being there.

The statute of limitations for filing a claim of this type is five (5) years.

The best way to make sure that individuals like this don't own dogs like this, is to force a change of insurability of properties like this.

When it gets to a point where insurers won't write a policy for landlords that do not act responsibily, renters such as these won't have this type of "pet".

Anonymous said...

Here's some interesting reading on the matter.

It would be interesting to know more on whether the landlord knew the dogs were there and if there was any prohibition in the lease. From my experience with tenants, they will hide things (pets) and for all we know the dogs were visiting. So until a case goes to court we are only speculating that the landlord allowed these dogs.

Anonymous said...

The landlord has the ability to report the tenant behavior if he uses the Rental Research services. The landlord can even do it online. Call Rental Research and ask them about it.

Johnny Northside said...

I managed to get in touch with the probation office and found out that Willis Keith White got an early release from probation. They couldn't provide an address but did give me the name and number of his previous parole officer, which I am passing on to John Fena.

Stay tuned for information about Chantell Isanda's criminal record...

Johnny Northside said...

Here is Chantell's court record:

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Southdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Isanda, Chantell Deneice
Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction
Obstruct Legal Process or Arrest with Force
Disorderly Conduct

That's it, you gone and done it! said...

Sometimes in order to serve someone you can place a legal AD in any newspaper. If you can not locate the person by any other means, when you place this ad you are widening the search grid, some one that knows them are bound to read the paper.

We have had to serve someone like this before, and it worked out.

Anonymous said...

I am horribly sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. I am a north minneapolis resident and a proud owner of a 9 month old pit bull mix. I am heart broken over how these thugs use these dogs. Even though I own a pit and love the breed, I often worry while on our walks about other dogs as well as when eddie is in our back yard.

I hope something will come out of this because the owners need to be held responsible. I am very anti breed legislation, but I am a strong supporter of punishing those who abuse dogs and use them for fighting. It is something that should be taken very seriously. I live near lind bohanan park and have heard multiple dogs fighting in the night with crowds around, I report it until someone shows up, but usually they just scatter the group.

I also won't hesitate to call animal control if it doesn't look like a dog has a license tag or is off their leash.

I always carry pepper spray in my pocket while on walks just in case.

Anonymous said...

I have a pit bull mix and needed to switch my home owners insurance because they would not cover him. State Farm does not discriminate against breeds but we do pay a higher premium.

These thugs won't care about home owners or rental insurance. The people who actually look into their insurance and make sure that they dog is covered will be the ones to suffer.

I am very sorry to hear of this incident, and hate hearing of dog attacks in our neighborhood.

We need to go after the people who are illegally breeding these dogs and who think it is cool to have am unsocialized, aggressive dog.

MeganG. said...

To Anon @ 1108pm - you really need to call Dan Niziolek at Animal Care & Control - (612) 673-3000
- specifically ask for Dan - he is the director of ACC - he is former city council - he is very good and very agressive at finding the dog fighting rings and taking them down! - I have seen him go so far above and beyond to catch thugs who are abusing these dogs- I have seen him give his own cell number and tell neighbors to call him on his cell regardless of day or night so he can catch the dog fighters.

Call Dan!! (last name sort of sounds like Nee-jell-ik, I think)

AAA said...

My condolences to the bereaved. Since it's so hard for us gay men to adopt, we become very attached to our pets. I hope this lawsuit brings some measure of justice.