Trial

The trial of a Canyon Lake couple charged with negligence after an elderly neighborhood resident in 2013 was mauled and killed by dogs finally began Tuesday after 15 postponements over the last five years.

Seven men and seven women were seated as jurors and alternates before opening statements were delivered before 433rd District Court Judge Dib Waldrip in the trial of Peter Scott Lucas, 54, and his wife, Rachelle Kay Lucas, 52, whose pit bulls, mauled Betty Clark, a 75-year-old neighbor, on the evening of Dec. 21, 2013, authorities said.

Both defendants pleaded “not guilty” on charges of criminal negligence — formally an attack by a dog resulting in death — a second-degree felony punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and between two and 20 years in prison. 

“This case is about responsibility and accountability,” said Assistant Criminal District Attorney Jessica Frazier, adding witnesses saw the dogs beat a retreat back to the Lucases’ home, where Comal County Sheriff’s Office deputies discovered several holes dug under a fence surrounding the home. 

The dogs escaped, Frazier said, and were roaming before they mauled Clark as she walked home after visiting a neighbor.

“Their dogs attacked Miss Betty because they failed to effectively secure their property,” Frazier said. “And 16 days later, Miss Betty died as a result. .. You have to ask what their responsibility was in this and then hold them accountable for their actions. They failed to do what a reasonable person would have done.”

Defense attorneys Tommy Vaughn and Deborah Wigington, respectively representing Rachelle Lucas and Peter Lucas, said there were flaws in CCSO’s investigation of the incident. They said it relied heavily on statements of two witnesses — both neighbors who fired shots to disperse the dogs from attacking Clark — who were later convicted of crimes that sent them to prison.

“There are two tragedies,” Vaughn said. “The first one is that Miss Betty was the victim of a mauling by dogs and that she died of her injuries. But the second tragedy is blaming this on Pete and Rachelle Lucas.

“It comes down to two meth-heads who have told different versions of the events,” Vaughn added. “The investigators had their minds made up, but what we can tell you is that the dogs who attacked her weren’t the Lucases dogs – I think it was probably (the witnesses’) dogs. But even if it were their dogs, they certainly aren’t criminally negligible.”

According to Comal County Sheriff’s Office reports, Clark was attacked by two dogs at the intersection of Deer Valley and Overhill streets in Canyon Lake. Found unresponsive with bites on her limbs, torso, abdomen and head, she was airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio, where she died Jan. 6, 2014.

The dogs only attacked Clark. After calling 9-1-1, the neighbor Clark was visiting suffered a heart attack and was transported by ambulance to Christus Santa Rosa Hospital-New Braunfels and later released. The county’s animal control department later confiscated the dogs, which were quarantined and euthanized days later.

The Lucases weren’t charged until June 4, 2014, when a Comal County grand jury handed up an indictment charging both “did then and there with criminal negligence, fail to secure a dog or dogs and one or more of those dogs made an unprovoked attack on another person, namely Betty Clark.”

Both were arrested June 10, 2014 and released the same day from Comal County Jail after posting $15,000 bond. Since then, their trials — scheduled either together or separately — have been postponed 15 times, most recently on Jan. 28, 2019. 

Prosecutors and defense attorneys believe the trial, limited to deciding guilt or innocence of the defendants, could last into next week.

(2) comments

Debbie Bell

Those who fail to keep their dogs safe and permit their dogs to injure or kill others are negligent and cruel.

New laws are needed. Charge all the handlers, users, and owners of dogs that severely injure or kill humans or domestic animals with felony animal neglect and cruelty.

Found guilty, ban them all from any dog contact or ownership for Life.

Publicized and enforced this afforable Breed Neutral law will begin to make dog owners care enough to prevent that first attack.

Sabrina Brown

Several people are mauled daily by dangerous dog breeds. A person is killed every two weeks by dangerous dogs. Tens of Thousands of animals are attacked every year by dangerous dogs. Texas has Laws on the books that not only do not allow individual counties to legislate by breed, but also protect the attacking dog, giving it a free mauling of a person and allow it to return to its careless owners after a 10 day quarantine (One Bite Rule). We must protect innocent people. We must change these laws to do so!
These people allowed two dogs from a breed that is known to attack and kill people, especially strangers, to escape their yard and eat this woman alive. There has to be some accountability here. If these attorneys manage to, from some tiny legal infraction or something, get these dirtbags off, this woman and others like her will have died in vain. We need to send a message to people who choose to own dangerous dog breeds, whether or not they personally deem them dangerous, and who don’t protect people and other pets from them. It’s not okay to be such a crappy irresponsible person that others have to suffer, to pay a heavy price for your bad judgment. Toss them in jail and throw the key away. Let other people with dangerous dog breeds know that they will follow them if they are careless.
This was a sad case that took far to long to be tried. These people have freely lived their lives for 4 years after this woman lost hers because of them. They killed her. Lock them up! 🤬😡

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