HAMILTON, Ohio -- Hamilton police said Monday the case involving two decapitated dogs is closed and was the result of an accident, not a criminal act — news Hamilton residents say they're relieved to hear.
Last Tuesday, police were alerted that the decapitated bodies of two dogs were found on railroad tracks in west Hamilton. It took witnesses two days to report the dogs’ deaths, but photos of the dogs were shared on Facebook as early as Sunday evening.
At the time of the discovery, Hamilton Sgt. Ed Buns said it appeared a train had struck and killed the two dogs. The dogs showed no sign of gunshot or stabbing injuries, but police and the Butler County Dog Warden continued to investigate the incident.
“I know it sounds cruel, but I hope they were deceased (before being placed on the tracks),” Buns said Wednesday, the day after the deaths were reported to police. “In a 36-year career, I’ve seen horrendous things done to people. I’ve seen horrendous things done to everything, and this is probably in the top five.”
On Monday, less than a week after the report was filed, police said the case was closed and charges of animal cruelty would not be filed.
Hamilton police worked with CSX Railroad Police to find the engineer who admitted to driving the train that hit the dogs, Buns said. The engineer said the dogs appeared to be "alive and well" when he spotted them playing on the tracks and they did not move when he sounded the train whistle.
"The engineer stated that he only learned of the investigation this weekend and is upset that the dogs were struck, but there is nothing he could do," Buns wrote in a news release.
Authorities said one of the two decapitated dogs, Scrappy, was the same animal that bit a 9-year-old girl on July 1 while chained up in the yard of its owner's home on Ramsey Drive.
Butler County's dog warden, Kurt Merbs, said Scrappy was being harassed by children and sprayed in the face with water until he broke free and bit the girl.
Scrappy's owner, Kari Walters, received a citation for failure to control the dog, Merbs said, but he was not going to be put down.
Walters said Scrappy had been staying with a friend since the end of July because she had to "take care of some things." She said the friend, who lives near the railroad tracks, told her Scrappy escaped over the weekend.
According to Gina Angelica, the second dog belonged to her, and his name was Deno. He was also a pit bull mix, and she only had him for a few months before he died. Angelica said Deno was let out and never came back.
"That dog -- that was my best friend," she said. "He was a very good dog."
Angelica confirmed that her dog was missing when police initially investigated the suspicious death, and that she had moved his body to bury him.
James Wilder, who was watching Deno for Angelica the night he disappeared, said that, even though nothing can bring the dogs back, he's relieved to hear it was just an accident.
"Somebody out there would be a nut, a serial killer in the making... I'm glad he wasn't murdered," Wilder said.
When the dogs were initially discovered, Buns criticized witnesses for not reporting the dogs' deaths sooner and, instead, posting about the incident on social media.
"Social media posts claimed that the dogs were shot and left on the tracks," Buns said. "With the assistance and support of the Animal Friends Human Society, award money was offered for information, and extensive media attention was obtained to determine who may have been responsible for the deaths if they died as a result of a criminal act.
"Based on statements, photographs and the inspections of the remains, detective are confident that, although amazing as it may seem, the information they have obtained is accurate," Buns said.
Hamilton police said the Butler County dog warden may pursue charges against the dogs' owners for failure to maintain control of the dogs.