Judge In Murder Trial Slashes Bond for Owner of Dogs That Mauled Girl to Death

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
September 3, 2019 Updated: September 3, 2019

A Michigan man facing second-degree murder charges in connection with the dog-mauling death of a 9-year-old Detroit girl has had his bond substantially reduced from the initial $2 million to $20,000.

In a probable cause hearing on Friday, Aug. 30, Judge Michael Wagner reduced the bond of 33-year-old Pierre Cleveland, who faces charges of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and owning a dangerous animal causing death, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The judge was cited by The Detroit News as saying that if Cleveland is released on bail, he is prohibited from having any contact with witnesses and cannot possess any animals.

Cleveland is the owner of three pit bulls and pit bull mixes that mauled 9-year-old Emma Hernandez in an alley on Aug. 19, leading to her death.

“It is horrible to imagine what Emma went through as she was being mauled to death by vicious dogs allegedly owned by the defendant. It is high time that the City of Detroit shines a light on the owners of these dangerous animals that sometimes roam and wreak serious havoc—none worse than what happened here,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in an Aug. 22 statement.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office was cited by PEOPLE as saying that it would address Cleveland’s bond again after a preliminary examination, slated for Sept. 18.

Tragedy Strikes

The dogs got free from Cleveland’s yard and attacked Emma Hernandez as she rode a bike in her neighborhood on the city’s southwest side.

One of the dogs was shot by a bystander while a medical crew tried to save the girl in an alley. The other dogs were captured. Neighbors threw bricks at the dogs to try to stop the attack, police said.

She was rushed to a hospital but soon pronounced dead.

Epoch Times Photo
Deborah Golden (C) talks with Detroit police after she tried to render aid to a young girl who later died of her injuries in Detroit on Aug. 19, 2019. (Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP)

Armando Hernandez, Emma’s father, said he rushed over and tried to perform CPR. “She was gone when I reached her,” he said. “I’m really heartbroken right now. I can’t explain it.”

He told WWJ that he’d warned Cleveland about containing the dogs in the past.

At Cleveland’s arraignment, prosecutors said he knew the dogs were aggressive and failed to properly contain them. “He knew the backyard was not secure,” Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Barbara Lanning stated, according to PEOPLE.

Worthy said that Cleveland left his dogs in his backyard behind a damaged fence.

“A male neighbor threw bricks at the dogs in an attempt to stop them from attacking the child. The child was observed with multiple bite wounds on her body. Medics were called to the scene, rendered medical assistance, and transported the victim to a local hospital where she was pronounced deceased. Defendant Cleveland was the next-door neighbor and owner of the three pit bulls that attacked the victim. On Aug. 19, 2019, before the fatal attack, it is alleged that the defendant left the dogs that he knew were dangerous, loose, and unsecured in the backyard of his home while he went to a nearby store,” the office said in a statement.

Epoch Times Photo
Emma Hernandez, 9, was killed by dogs in Detroit, Michigan on Aug. 18, 2019. (Paying tribute for Emma Valentina Hernandez/GoFundMe)

“Investigation of the location revealed that the fence that lined the yard was damaged and not secure. There was also a garage side door that was open and led to the alley where the victim was attacked. Further facts and evidence in the case will be presented in court at the preliminary examination,” the office added.

The three dogs were seized by the Detroit Animal Care and Control. The dogs have been slated to be put down.

“The entire team at Detroit Animal Care and Control is devastated by this tragedy and our hearts and prayers go out to the family of this child,” Detroit Animal Care and Control said in a statement obtained by the Detroit Free Press. “All three dogs are in our possession and will be evaluated; our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of Detroit residents. Due to the severity of this case, it is very likely that the dogs will be euthanized.”

Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement on Aug. 21 that he welcomed action against the dogs’ owner.

“The death of Emma Hernandez is a tragedy that is being felt deeply by everyone in our community. All Detroiters have Emma’s family in our hearts and in our prayers. Chief Craig has been in continual contact with me on the developments in the investigation. The prompt arrest and warrant request by the Detroit Police Department are an important reminder that dog owners will be held accountable for failure to secure dangerous animals,” he said.

“It is not acceptable to have dangerous animals loose on the streets of Detroit. DPD and Animal Control are reviewing the entire issue to make certain the city will do everything possible to prevent this type of tragedy from ever occurring again.”


A private funeral Mass was held on Aug. 24 for the deceased girl, who in a funding campaign note was called “a wonderful child who touched the lives of those around her.”

“Emma dedicated her life to school work, playing and enjoying life with her family,” said the GoFundMe campaign page.

“She was such a smart and silly girl. Loved to be outdoors and play with her cousins. A beautiful soul inside and out.”

The Associated Press reported that purple and pink flowers decorated the entrance at St. Cunegunda Church, said to be the girl’s favorite colors.

Church bells could be heard throughout the neighborhood. An area resident, Alicia Castillo, called it a “beautiful scene.”

Epoch Times reporter Zachary Stieber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'