Police: Owner to face trial

GREENFIELD — The owner of pair of pit bulls that attacked and injured two people last year is scheduled for trial Tuesday to determine if she is responsible for her pets’ actions.

Karla Johnson, 39, was arrested in April 2014 after two of her dogs escaped from her home in the 1400 block of Persimmon Circle and bit two neighbors — a 7-year-old boy and an 82-year-old woman. Johnson was charged with criminal recklessness causing serious bodily injury and obstruction of justice, both Class D felonies, as well as a misdemeanor charge of dog-bite liability.

Johnson has refused prosecutors’ attempts to settle the case, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter said.

“She has no interest in taking a deal; she insisted on taking (the case) to trial,” Castetter said.

The dog attacks raised concern in Greenfield and prompted city leaders to conduct a public meeting regarding their investigation. Johnson’s two dogs, Lily and Roscoe, were held at Greenfield-Hancock County Animal Management for months before being euthanized when police determined the animals were too aggressive to be adopted.

The dog attacks occurred in separate instances a few days apart, police said.

On April 9, 2014, a dog reportedly charged a young boy while he was standing in the driveway of a friend’s home. The dog yanked the boy to the ground and bit him multiple times; the bites required more than 50 stitches to close the wounds on the boy’s arm and face, police said.

Three days later, two dogs lunged at a Greenfield woman who was standing in her garage, unloading her car. The dogs bit both of the woman’s arms, police said.

When Johnson was questioned by police, she told them her dogs were in the house at that time of the first attack but admitted her pets had pushed through a fence in her backyard around the same time as the second attack. She said they were gone for only a few minutes, court documents state.

Johnson told police her dogs were hyperactive but not aggressive, and she did not believe her pets were capable of attacking people. She said multiple dogs in her neighborhood run loose.

Prosecutors expect the trial to last two days. The state has compiled a witness list of about 15 people, including police officers, animal management workers and several of Johnson’s neighbors, some of whom saw the attacks and others who saw Johnson while she was out looking for her dogs.

The two Class D felonies Johnson faces carry penalties of six months to 3 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

Castetter said if Johnson is convicted, the prosecutor’s office plans to seek some compensation for the victims as well.

Johnson’s attorney, Randy Sorrell of Fortville, could not be reached for comment.

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.