Witnesses on Wednesday described the graphic injuries that 75-year-old Betty Clark sustained in the 2013 dog attack that ultimately claimed her life.
The testimony came during the second day of the trial of a Canyon Lake couple.
Peter Scott Lucas, 54, and his wife, Rachelle Kay Lucas, 52, pleaded “not guilty” to attack by a dog resulting in death after a jury was seated Tuesday before 433rd District Court Judge Dib Waldrip.
Seven men and seven women seated as jurors and alternates heard testimony from those who tried to rescue Clark, who was mauled by dogs on the evening of Dec. 21, 2013 and died in a San Antonio hospital 16 days after the attack.
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. Mary Anne Ybarra, a neighbor visiting with Clark that evening, testified she heard dogs barking soon after Clark left her home for her own residence, right across the street.
“She was covered in blood and had a gouge in her head,” recalled Ybarra, a retired nurse. “Her right arm had a hole in it and I could see all the way to the bone. There was so much blood. . . I felt so helpless — I couldn’t do anything but just be there for her.”
Ybarra's screams caught the attention of neighbor Dwight Leon Hammett who, with girlfriend Kayla White, lived on Overhill Street, just across the street from Ybarra. Ybarra said after Clark was airlifted from the scene, “I went to my porch and had a major heart attack.”
Hammett, brought into the courtroom in shackles and jail-issue striped overalls, testified he physically tried to fend off two pit bulls attacking Clark before asking White to fetch his .357 caliber pistol, which he used to scare them away.
Prosecutor Kiera Kilday asked of Hammett’s current residence, to which he said was Travis State Jail, convicted of three felonies resulting in a nine-year sentence. Hammett tearfully testified of aiding “Miss Betty,” a 75-year-old widow he’d occasionally helped with household chores.
“Yes, seeing her with one dog on her arms and another on her legs had an impact on me,” Hammett said. “Her face was being chewed off and I couldn’t do anything about it.”
After Hammett shot a round from the pistol into the ground, the dogs — a caramel-colored female and a black, white-patched male — scattered toward the Lucas residence on Deer Valley, just yards away the attack.
“They were on a mission to kill or hurt someone — and they did,” Hammett said.
Deborah Wigington, who with Tommy Vaughn is defending the Lucases, tore into Hammett’s credibility by presenting documents of his plea deals on charges of family violence, stalking and weapons possession during several abusive encounters he had with White in 2016.
Wigington also accused Hammett of trying to shave time off of his prison time by testifying in the case, which he denied.
“I came here just to tell the truth about what I saw,” he said.
White, neighbor Stacy Pecan and Bexar County medical examiner Randall Frost testified after Hammett later Wednesday afternoon. Scott Lange, a former Comal County Sheriff’s Office deputy, testified he had a nasty encounter with Rachelle Lucas after arriving to her home to investigate claims the dogs returned to the residence after the attack.
Lange testified he and CCSO Sgt. Juan Leyba took photos inside and outside of the fence surrounding the Lucases’ residence. Several photos illustrated a freshly-dug path under an already-upturned fence bottom. A cinder block used to weigh down the fence lining had been pushed aside, exposing bloodied areas in two links on bottom rungs.
Lange’s testimony will continue when the trial continues around 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys expect the guilt or innocence of the trial could extend into next week.
A guilty verdict on the second-degree felony is punishable by between two and 20 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000.