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from The Milwauee Sentinal
Girl, 10, mauled to death by dogs
Rottweilers attacked her at friend's Elroy home
Last Updated: Feb. 15, 2002
On a day when they should have been talking about their daughter's first cheerleading practice, the parents of 10-year-old Alicia Clark were planning a funeral for the girl, who was killed by six Rottweilers.
Alicia, a Girl Scout and fourth-grade athlete, died Thursday night when she was attacked by the dogs while visiting a friend's home in Elroy in Juneau County, authorities said Friday.
Police were called about 9 p.m. Thursday to the scene of the dog attack, a single-family home about two blocks from the police department in central Elroy, said Chief Nicholas Dub of the Elroy Police Department.
Alicia and a 10-year-old friend who lived at the home were alone at the time of the attack, Dub said.
Alicia died at the scene of multiple traumatic injuries the six dogs inflicted, Juneau County Coroner Howard Fischer said.
The other girl was bitten on the leg, Dub said, when she tried to pull the dogs off Alicia. The dogs have since been impounded at an undisclosed location, where they will undergo blood tests and be swabbed for residual evidence of the attack.
For Fischer, Alicia's death was unlike anything he had seen or heard of.
"This is a vicious attack," Fischer said. "We were trying in our own minds to think of any case similar to this. You usually find a case where one dog attacked. In the California case, I think you had two. But six? That's just . . . we couldn't think of anything like this."
Dub, too, found Alicia's death hard to fathom, not only because of what he called the gravity of the situation but because he knew the girl.
"I just bought Girl Scout cookies from this little girl," he said. "I'd known her for only a short time. She struck me as being just a very cute little girl."
Alicia's mother, 35-year-old Tammy Shiflitt, said Friday it is that image - the cute little Alicia she knew and loved - that she is trying to cling to.
"I haven't spoken to the police, and I can't do that," Shiflitt said tearfully. "I don't know to what extent (Alicia was injured). I still don't know, and I don't want to know."
Still, she said, "You can't not think about it. My baby has to have a closed casket funeral."
She began to sob. After a few moments she recovered.
"I'm angry," she said. "I'm trying to hold my anger because I have her funeral to focus on and her wake. The anger is there."
The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Picha Funeral Home in Elroy.
The anger is also there for Alicia's father, 31-year-old Jim Clark.
Shiflitt and Clark, while not married, have been together 12 years. Together they raised Alicia, their daughter, and Shiflitt's 16-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
With Shiflitt often at work, Clark said he was Alicia's primary caretaker. He was also one of the first people to arrive at the scene of the attack Thursday night.
According to Clark, one of the dog owners, neither of whom is being identified because they have not been charged, came to his house shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday.
Without telling him why, "(She) said, 'Jim, let's go,' " Clark said. "I got back to the house with (her) and I went in the house and I pretty much, you know, saw what happened. . . . She was lying by the kitchen table covered with blankets." The dogs, he said, were all locked in a bathroom.
"I said, 'Did 911 get called?' and (she) said, 'No. You know I don't have a phone.' I stormed out and went to the bar to call 911."
After making the call, Clark said he returned to the house, where he scooped up Alicia's lifeless body in his arms.
"I went in there and held her for a few minutes," Clark said.
Neither Dub nor Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson was available late Friday afternoon to confirm Clark's account.
Dub said earlier Friday that while police had determined the two girls were home alone at the time of the attack, they were still investigating whether the couple who own the dogs were away from the home to feed three other Rottweilers they had at another location.
No arrests had been made as of Friday evening.
Dub said the couple could be ticketed for violating city ordinances that limit the number of dogs in a household to three and require each dog to be registered and licensed.
Only one of the dogs in the home where Alicia died was registered, Dub said. And, as far as his officers knew, there was only one dog in the home.
News of Alicia's death quickly rippled through Elroy, home to about 1,500 people.
"It just gives me the quivers," said Callie Northcott, 17.
Northcott, who works as a cashier at Elroy Amoco & Subway, just down the road from where Alicia died, said Alicia often came to the station to buy candy.
"She's just sweet as can be," Northcott said. "It would take her 15 minutes to pick out candy. I'd ask her, 'Can I help you?' And she'd say, 'No. It just takes me a while to figure out what my stomach's hungry for. It changes its mind so much.' "
In the neighborhood where Alicia died, residents grappled with the knowledge that so many Rottweilers were so near.
"We know that they had a dog, but we didn't know they had six," said Janet Baeseman, 32, who lives across the street from the house where Alicia died.
"It's scary because we have two small children. It makes you think of the times, maybe, when they took a dog from the house to the car and how they could have gotten loose. It really makes you nervous."
Dogs likely to be killed
Victoria Wellens, executive director of the Wisconsin Humane Society, said practices vary from county to county, but after the required 10-day holding period the dogs will likely be put down.
"They would probably be destroyed after whatever evidence is taken, if they are not going to be used in the court case, because of the health and safety issue they have created," she said.
The words were of little consolation for Alicia's father, who, while calm and almost resolute in his grief, said he was close to buckling.
"I was a bad alcoholic," Clark said. He celebrated one year of sobriety in January. He said he thought making it through that first year would be his toughest test. He was wrong.
"This is an even bigger test right now. Today was her first cheerleading practice. It was father-daughter day at the bowling alley tomorrow" for Girl Scouts.
Clark stopped, then went on: "I'll always wonder what difference it would have made if 911 had been called sooner," he said.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Feb. 16, 2002.
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