Attack results in jail term

GREENFIELD — A woman whose dogs attacked an elderly neighbor and young boy was sentenced to 1½ years of jail time Thursday.

Karla Johnson, formerly of Greenfield, will not be allowed to own a dog during her sentence, which includes 1½ years on probation after she serves time in the Hancock County Jail, a judge ruled.

Johnson’s two dogs, Lily and Roscoe, were euthanized in 2014 after they escaped from her home and bit a 7-year-old boy and an 82-year-old woman.

A jury of seven Hancock County residents decided in July that Johnson should be held responsible for her pets’ actions. She was found guilty of two Class D felonies, criminal recklessness causing serious bodily injury and obstruction of justice, as well as a misdemeanor dog-bite liability charge, at the conclusion of a two-day trial in Hancock Circuit Court.

During the sentencing hearing Thursday, victims’ family members were given the chance to speak about the trauma their loved ones suffered as a result of the attacks.

Melissa Hawkins, whose son was one of the two neighbors attacked, addressed the court.

“My son … will carry these scars with him for the rest of his life on his face and arms, a reminder of how his life was changed forever because of someone’s negligence,” she said. “There isn’t a day that we aren’t reminded of what has happened.”

Hancock Circuit Court Judge Richard Culver told the defendant she was an irresponsible pet-owner, and he didn’t believe her claims when she said she didn’t think her dogs weren’t responsible for the attacks.

“I don’t think you’re sufficiently competent to have an animal and raise it in such a way … that they won’t cause harm,” he said before delivering the sentence.

Randy Sorrell of Fortville represented Johnson during the trial and at Thursday’s hearing. He and Johnson declined to comment following the proceedings but noted they are considering an appeal.

Marie Castetter, chief deputy prosecutor on the case, said she believes the evidence supported Johnson’s conviction.

Castetter asked Culver to hand down a two-year sentence but was satisfied with the court’s decision, she said.

“We’re pleased that the court recognized the jury’s verdict and took the victim’s statement into account,” she said.

Johnson returns to court Sept. 17 for a restitution hearing, during which a court will determine how much money she should pay to the victims.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.