Dog attack spurs River Forester to go on months-long hunt

Pit bull's exact whereabouts still unknown

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By Thomas Vogel

Staff Reporter

River Forester Lee Neubecker was walking his greyhound, Roxie, in mid-April about a block from his house when a pit bull came bounding toward him and his dog, knocking the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Neubecker into a bush, scratching his chest through his shirt. 

The 44-year-old Neubecker got up, grabbed a tree branch as protection, and ran toward his fenced-in backyard with Roxie, where the pit bull caught up to the pair and began attacking Roxie, who by then was trying to crawl under the locked gate. 

"It went right for my dog," Neubecker said. "It was on a mission to kill it."

The pit bull, Neubecker said, grabbed Roxie by the neck, ran about 30 yards away and began shaking the greyhound. Then, Neubecker said, the dog's owner, a 69-year-old woman, came around the corner and called off the pit bull.

Neubecker grabbed his injured dog and rushed to a nearby animal hospital on North Avenue, where Roxie, bleeding "profusely from her neck," racked up about $1,400 in medical bills. A police report on the incident notes Neubecker had blood on his shoes and socks and there was blood on the concrete near Neubecker's backyard gate. 

"She's disfigured as a result," Neubecker said, referring to Roxie. "She won't be doing any dog shows. She rebounded, but it's still really traumatic."

The police report also notes the dog's owner told police the pit bull is a rescue dog. The 69-year-old told police on the day of the incident she was "working in the house and the wind caused the door to open and the dog ran outside." 

Before he headed to the veterinarian, Neubecker managed to snap one photo of the pit bull's owner, who turned her head away from the camera and refused to identify herself, even after Neubecker asked.  

Neubecker shared the photo, which included a witness in the background, on social media and asked neighbors to help identify the dog's owner. He later filed an official police report and the River Forest Police Department sent out a community bulletin about the attack. 

Eventually, in June, detectives with the department, after following up on a half-dozen leads and using the photo Neubecker took, identified the dog's owner, who lives just about a block from Neubecker, on Jackson Avenue. The woman was cited for several village ordinance violations and given an August court date at River Forest Village Hall. 

She told officers her husband took the dog out of River Forest. A next-door neighbor also confirmed to officers he hadn't seen the dog, which was often heard barking in the backyard, for some time. 

"The last information we had, the dog was in Michigan," Deputy Police Chief James O'Shea said July 19. "There was another rumor that it may be in Lake County. I'm not sure if it's in Lake County, Illinois or Lake County, Indiana."

Either way, if the rumors are true, the dog is out of the jurisdiction of River Forest's law enforcement, who could impound the dog if it were found to still be in the village. 

O'Shea, a 23-year veteran of the force, said the incident is troublesome and a bit unique. Usually in his experience, pet owners involved in incidents like this one, are upfront and apologetic and work collaboratively to fix the issue, accepting blame and offering help, financial or otherwise. That didn't happen this time and the pit bull's owner did not come forward immediately.  

 "It was very disappointing," O'Shea said July 19. "That bothered me a little bit. It bothered some of the officers and investigators. They probably worked a little bit harder on the investigation because of it."

The uncertainty caused a "mini-crisis" in the neighborhood, with residents unsure if their pets or young children were at risk, said O'Shea, who stressed that residents should call authorities immediately if they witness or are involved in an attack. 

"We'd want someone to pick up the phone right away and call 911," O'Shea said. "Just like if someone is robbed and waits an hour too long, it can slow down our investigations."

 The dog's owner, Neubecker said, did eventually come by his house to apologize at the beginning of July, after admitting to police she was the pit bull's owner. Neubecker said the woman told him the pit bull was at a shelter in "Lake County," but refused to elaborate when pressed for details.

Neubecker said he still may seek restitution in civil court. The woman is reportedly also being sued in Michigan for a similar incident, he said. 

"I'm not on a mission to kill the dog," Neubecker said. "I just want to make sure it won't happen again. I don't want anyone else going through this."

The pit bull's owner could not be reached for comment by press time. Several calls to a phone number listed at her Jackson Avenue address were not answered. 

Reader Comments

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Heinz Schuller from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2017 4:07 PM

Unfortunately this kind of thing isn't that uncommon. About a month ago my friend's son was running running on the track across from OPRF, and an off-leash dog charged and bit him. Same thing, the owner just started walking away and refused to talk or have her picture taken. It's truly difficult to fathom how morally bereft someone must be to leave a bleeding kid or animal, and not offer help or support!

Jerry Runner  

Posted: August 22nd, 2017 8:09 PM

Yes it most certainly is the breed. People who defend these dogs don't give a damn about the victims be they animals or humans. Take a vow now and ready yourself to prevent being victimized. You can't count on animal control or the police to do anything before your animals or kids are maimed or killed. Build a proper fence. Buy a weapon and learn to use it. Patrol your neighborhood with a partner. Take pictures of problem dogs, owners, containment etc. Make the police aware of problems. And always shoot to kill BEFORE the psycho dogs are at your throat,

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: July 28th, 2017 9:41 AM

Wind is opening doors now? If true, the giant snarling mass of angry dog could open the door any time he wants.

Barbara Purington  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 4:43 PM

P.S. I am in a dog boarding coop and insist my dog never stay with a family with kids under six yrs. My old 16 pound Poodle mix has a fatal illness, but looks and act like a big, fluffy puppy. She has never been aggressive in 10 yrs., but you can"t be too cautious when children are involved.

Barbara Purington from Oak Park  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 4:29 PM

I am baffled by how a mature resident of River Forest can see a greyhound bleeding from wounds inflicted by her dog, refuse to identify herself, obstruct a photo being taken of her, and not assume responsibility for medical bills for all creatures involved. Breed is irrelevant. If my 16 pound Poodle terrorized a cat, I'd pay the bills. Can somone explain what goes on in the brains of these owners of repetitive biters? And how did this dog get a block away before owner noticed it was missing? And how was owner able to call it off with a verbal command, as previously reported? Sounds like it was a trained attack dog. A dog like this is a liability. Why protect it? It's the fifth unprovoked dog attack I'm hearing of over a short time. Please sue the owners. If homeowners insurance gets involved, it will cancel policy if menacing canine is not euthanized after second attack. I also knew of a cat in OP that had to be relocated because it was terrorizing a neighbor's dog.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 4:11 PM

Well Ms. Warren that is just the point. You probably would not have a disfiguring scar from a chiahuahua or a cocker spaniel bite for that matter. There are several reasons the pit bull is abused as a fighting dog as apposed to say for instance the basset hound. The pit bull and its variants have one of the the strongest measured bites amongst dogs - exceeded only by much larger dogs.

Judith Warren  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 3:10 PM

I have disfiguring scars from *a* pitbull attack from when I was 19. I am 100% against breed specific legislature. I have also been an animal control officer in a different state. The majority of the dog bites I investigated came from chihuahuas, cocker spaniels and cattle dogs. BTW search basset hound bites and you will find plenty of links.

Tracey Nichole  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 2:39 PM

The owner is responsible having a door that properly closes. Wind shouldn't be "blowing open doors". When pits are raised from birth with loving families, they are some of the best family dogs around. I can't speak for rescues, as the trauma they have been through can lead to problems down the line. Dog fighting rings are the true root issue, creating these rescue dogs with problems.

Stacia Guthrie DePooter from River Forest  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 2:23 PM

My CHILD was attacked by a pit bull in River Forest in the fall of 2015 in our own driveway. Bit clean through his leg. Luckily he was big enough and strong enough to kick the dog off of him. Had it been one of my smaller children, they likely would have died. I was told the law in River Forest is that nothing can be done for the first bite. After the second bite, they will do something. WHY WAIT?!?!? The second time, the dog may kill somebody. This particular dog is still being kept in River Forest by its owners.

Fataah Ewe' from Sterling  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 1:44 AM

I have found dogsbite to be a very careful journalistic effort, keeping track of victims' incidents of mailings and fatalities caused by pit bulls and their close derivative breeds and mixes. That these incidents actually happen is a fact. There are few advocates for victims, but the pro pit lobby is very good at raising donations per misguided sappy melodrama about abuse. One can follow the money. You never see photos of child victims of pit mauling at pro pit sites. Yet look at all these child victims. They really did exist, before a pit destroyed their lives. Daxtonsfriends.com

Michael D Brown from Oak Park  

Posted: July 26th, 2017 6:39 PM

There are dog breeds based on data that are more likely to be involved in these attacks. When out and about i think it is worthwhile being somewhat judgmental about a dog and owner you don't know and therefore wary of those particular breeds. Some breeds seem to be of very little concern. I've not heard of any Basset Hound attacks lately.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: July 26th, 2017 5:41 PM

Sure "any dog can attack in the correct situation." But not any dog has the physical tools to inflict mortal damage.

Ben DeBruin  

Posted: July 26th, 2017 5:34 PM

I have friends with pitbulls. The issue is NOT the breed, but the owners that allow this to happen. Any dog breed can attack in the correct situation.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 26th, 2017 2:53 PM

Thanks for the info Mike.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: July 26th, 2017 12:57 PM

Dogsbite.org is a lobbying organization dedicated to breed-specific legislation, primarily aimed at pit bulls. Colleen Lynn, the founder, discredits experts and their research, including that of veterinarians and the CDC, despite the fact that she has a background in web design and no expertise herself when it comes to dogs. No thanks.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 26th, 2017 11:32 AM

Here is a good website regarding pit bulls and other dangerous dogs: http://www.dogsbite.org/dogsbite-donate-who-we-help.php?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIn9Xp56-n1QIVgXp-Ch0XXwwgEAAYASAAEgLr9_D_BwE

David Heidelbach  

Posted: July 26th, 2017 8:42 AM

"The woman is reportedly also being sued in Michigan for a similar incident". How many others? It is insane that people are shipping these dogs known to be dangerous around the country. Laws need to be updated to have real consequences for the perpetrators. How they can view themselves as dog lovers is beyond comprehension.

Mia Johnson  

Posted: July 25th, 2017 8:36 PM

It's really sad how far pit bull attack victims have to go after most attacks. The owner can rarely be found, the dog mysteriously disappears, the owner when identified has a whole list of excuses. It should be very simple: if you own a pit bull, you don't take a chance on your door blowing open, or your leash breaking, or any other excuse. But it's the same story over and over again, and no surprise when the owner has previous charges. If people really want the public to believe pit bulls are such great dogs, they should be doing something about these attacks. For National Pit Bull Victim Awareness, tracking pit bull attacks reported in the media.

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