Dog-mauling lawsuit: County accused of destroying records

County’s defense includes claim that Klonda Richey teased or tormented the dogs that killed her.

Documents filed in a civil lawsuit from a 2014 dog-mauling death allege the destruction of potential key evidence and include as a claim by the defendants, Montgomery County dog warden Mark Kumpf and the agency he heads, that Klonda Richey’s fatal injuries were the result of her teasing or tormenting the two dogs that attacked her.

Richey’s torn and naked body lie outside in sub-freezing temperatures on the morning of Feb. 7, 2014, until a passerby reported it in the snow around 8:15 a.m. When police responded, the dogs charged them and were shot and killed.

Montgomery County commissioners have approved spending at least $165,000 since September 2015 for the services of attorney Michael W. Sandner, an attorney with Pickrel, Schaeffer & Ebeling, to defend Kumpf and county offices from actions arising from Richey’s death, according to county records.

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The wrongful death suit, filed in February 2015 by Richey’s estate, alleges that Kumpf recklessly and/or willingly failed in his duty to enforce existing laws nor sought to obtain a dangerous dog designation that may have given Richey “significant additional protections.”

Richey, 57, was attacked by two mixed mastiffs in her 31 E. Bruce Ave. driveway. If the dogs had been designated dangerous, the protections could have included a higher fee for her neighbors to register the dogs and a requirement for them to provide evidence of additional insurance.

Kumpf and the Animal Resource Center claim as a defense that Richey’s injuries, “were the result of teasing and/or tormenting the animals which attacked the decedent,” according to a document filed Aug. 28 by Sandner.

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The Richey family contends she made approximately 13 calls to the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center and at least 11 calls to the Animal Resource Center after Andrew Nason and Julie Custer moved into 35 E. Bruce Ave. with the dogs in early 2011.

Richey was so scared of the dogs she installed a fence between the two houses, put up security camera to monitor when the dogs were off leash and sought a civil protection order against Nason, which was denied.

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None of that helped Richey survive. She died of blood loss from “severe and multiple” injuries, according to Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger.

A jury trial is scheduled to begin March 11.

The suit claims Kumpf refused to act to protect Richey and now seeks damages from the Animal Resource Center based on the destruction of potential evidence, according to court documents.

Kumpf and the Animal Resource Center “willfully and with malicious purpose destroyed highly relevant public records with intent to disrupt plaintiff’s existing lawsuit against defendant Mark Kumpf,” a complaint updated by Richey’s estate and filed Aug. 1 reads.

A plaintiff’s complaint also questions the responsiveness of Kumpf and the Animal Resource Center to provide numerous public records, including “truck logs” or “truck sheets” that documented the daily activities of Animal Resource Center officers as the agency investigated dog calls.

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Truck logs from 2013 and 2014 — during the period just preceding Richey’s death — had been destroyed in November, 2017, according to a handwritten list produced by Animal Resource Center supervisor Robert Sexton during a March (2018) deposition. Sexton also testified that the truck logs for 2011 and 2012 had also been destroyed, but provided no documentation.

More than two years before the records were destroyed, the plaintiff’s counsel warned the Animal Resource Center on or around March 31, 2015, to preserve documents and records and “refrain from destroying all potentially discoverable information,” that could be related to Richey’s death.

Naylor displayed frustration with Kumpf in a June 21 memorandum: “Klonda Richey was a decorated employee of Montgomery County for 25 years before she was brutally and savagely killed by dogs as result of Mark Kumpf’s failure to fulfill his statutory duties and heed her many, many, many pleas for help. This case is not a slip-and-fall case, but rather seeks justice for one of the most excruciating and horrific deaths in Dayton’s history. It is important. Yet Kumpf and ARC have thus far refused to take their discovery obligations seriously, which has now resulted in the permanent destruction of key documentary evidence.”

When reached by phone Friday, Naylor, the attorney for the Richey estate administered by Barbara E. Schneider, declined to comment on the case. A phone call and email to Kumpf were not returned Friday, nor was a phone message left with the attorney defending him, Sandner. Montgomery County officials also declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Andrew Nason and Julie Custer, the dogs’ owners, each pleaded no contest and were found guilty of two misdemeanor counts of failure to control dogs in 2015. Both spent months in jail.

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Last week, Anthony Austin of Dayton pleaded not guilty a misdemeanor charge for failing to control a pit bull. Maurice Brown, 60, died of blood loss on April 25, 2017, after being attacked by the dog allegedly owned by Austin, 28.

The Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, where Kumpf has been director since 2006, was more recently added to the civil suit because of the destruction of records. The case wound its way through an appellate process after Kumpf’s name was dropped from the suit in 2015, but returned as a defendant after an appellate court ruling.

Richey’s estate is seeking economic and non-economic monetary damages, attorney’s fees, funeral and burial expenses, as well as other damages.

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