A Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict Andrew Nason, 29, and Julie Custer, 26 — Richey’s neighbors who owned the dogs — on any charges related to Richey’s death.
At a press conference announcing the grand jury’s decision, Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck and County Commissioner Dan Foley reiterated calls for changes to state law to hold negligent dog owners more responsible for their pet’s actions.
The grand jury ignored charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide and failing to confine or restrain a dog.
Richey, 57, was mauled to death in the early morning hours of Feb. 7 outside of her home at 31 E. Bruce Ave. Police officers responding to a report of a naked body lying outside in sub-freezing temperatures were charged by the dogs and shot and killed them.
The grand jury’s decision not to indict Nason and Custer is another defeat for Richey, who tried for two years before her death to get help from law enforcement, the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center and the courts, Jahnke said.
“I can picture her just feeling defeated again,” he said. “Even in death, she was defeated.”
Richey, who worked for Montgomery County Children Services and lived with about 20 cats, sought protection from the dogs and her neighbors for months before her death, according to records obtained by this newspaper from the county and courts. In total, 13 complaints were filed with the Animal Resource Center and another 46 calls were made to the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center related to Nason's home between Dec. 27, 2011, and Richey's death on Feb. 7, 2014.
The majority of the Animal Resource Center calls were anonymous but 23 of the calls to the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center were from Richey or associated with Richey's phone number. Most calls were about the dogs at the Nason house, but other calls included complaints about juveniles, fireworks and other activity. Richey also was ultimately denied a civil stalking protection order in April 2013.
Repeated attempts to reach Nason and Custer have been unsuccessful. A spokeswoman for Montgomery County said Thursday the county doesn’t know where Nason and Custer are. Attempts to serve them with a civil suit filed by Richey’s estate also have been unsuccessful.
Carol Myers, Richey’s cousin who lives in Georgetown, Ohio, didn’t know about the results of the grand jury proceedings until a reporter informed her.
“How in the world do they not have enough evidence? That is sick. That is just sad. How in the world can they say they don’t have enough evidence? Wow,” she said.
Calls to toughen state law
Richey’s death was the first in a series of attacks and maulings in the area this year and has led to multiple calls to strengthen the state laws as it relates to holding dog owners accountable for their dogs’ actions.
The current state law, which took effect in May 2012, created three designations for problem dogs and removed pit bulls from the definition of a vicious dog. It also created a process for owners to appeal the designation. Violators can be fined or face felony sanctions.
The dogs that attacked Richey did not have a designation because they had no history of biting someone or killing another dog, Montgomery County Animal Resource Center Director Mark Kumpf has said.
“This was an incredibly brutal death Ms. Richey experienced, and also a very slow death,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said on Thursday. “It is somewhat concerning that the law is inadequate to address the seriousness of this event and the very tragic way in which she died.”
The grand jury heard from 18 people, including Richey’s friends, neighbors, police officers, the coroner, a veterinarian and other experts.
Heck said no witnesses of the attack came forward or were found by the police.
“We just don’t live on an island,” Heck said. “We have to look out for each other and be a community.”
Heck’s office is working with the Dayton Police Department and Dayton prosecutor’s office to review evidence and consider misdemeanor charges under the city’s ordinances. He declined to elaborate on possible future charges. The case cannot be revisited by the county, he said.
“Klonda Richey did nothing to cause this,” Heck said. “That’s what is devastating and disappointing to the entire community. That’s different from being able to prove a criminal case against someone.”
A bill has been introduced in the Ohio House Representatives by Rep. Roland Winburn, D-Harrison Twp., and the late Republican Rep. Terry Blair that would revise current state law on vicious and dangerous dogs to:
* Require destruction of dogs that kill humans or companion animals;
* Require investigators to notify the dog’s owner that there has been a complaint, even if no citation is issued for a violation;
* Mandate that the dog owner respond within 48 hours of receiving notice of a complaint or be fined $25. If the owner fails to respond within seven days, a court may issue an arrest warrant for the dog owner;
* Require the owner to keep a dog leashed or penned regardless of whether the dog is on the owner’s property.
Sen. Bill Beagle has been working on complementary legislation and coincidentally has a meeting scheduled today to discuss his proposed legislation with other officials, he said. He plans to introduce a bill in the Senate in the near future.
“Recent developments reaffirm my belief that changes are needed in Ohio law to hold vicious dog owners accountable,” said Beagle, R-Tipp City. “I am working together with our partners in law enforcement, animal experts, and local legislators to craft legislation to address this serious issue.”
More training for law enforcement
A seminar is scheduled Oct. 9-10 for local law enforcement, animal shelter employees, and municipal and county prosecutors designed to improve the response and investigation of complaints, Heck and Foley said.
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer has had a committee working on the issue for several months and said he would like his office to take over investigative and enforcement actions related to dog attacks.
“It’s unfortunate no one is held accountable for the death of this innocent lady,” he said. Plummer also called for legislative, policy and communication changes and a “total independent review of the entire incident.”
“It’s a travesty. It truly is,” he said.
Myers and Jahnke pointed to different parts of the system they believed failed Richey during the two years leading up to her death.
Myers blamed the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center for failure to act on the 13 complaints about the dogs at the home.
“Mark Kumpf’s as guilty as they are … the dog warden. When it drug out this long, I was really fearful that justice wouldn’t prevail,” Myers said. “I know he kept saying he didn’t see anything. But when you have so many reports of those dogs running loose and you don’t do anything? You leave a note on the door? There was no follow up.”
Kumpf did not return a message seeking comment.
Jahnke pointed to the court system and the magistrate’s decision to deny Richey’s civil stalking protection order.
“He got away with it. He was able to get away with it. He knew he could get away with it. He laughed at her. He mocked her,” Jahnke said of Nason. “It would have been a different world if she had gotten that protection order.”
Jahnke said Richey had no intention of leaving her home and the home to her more than 20 cats.
“She was dug in over there and she was not coming out,” he said. “Neither was he. And it’s one of those things…it’s just going to end badly for someone. Unfortunately, it was her.”