The Bay County Sheriff's Office has filed a manslaughter charge against Edward Daniels, the Callaway man whose dogs attacked a child.
Tyler Jett, 7, died Sunday at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. He was critically injured on April 2 when two bulldogs mauled him in the front yard of his home.
"In any type of animal case where the death of another person occurred, this is the highest you could go," said Greg Wilson, Chief Assistant State Attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit.
Daniels, 21, was taken into custody the day of the attack on an unrelated drug charge. He was later charged with tampering with evidence for allegedly washing blood off the face and paws of the dogs involved in the attack. Daniels faces a maximum 15 year prison sentence if convicted of manslaughter, a second degree felony.
To win a conviction, state prosecutors must prove Daniels is guilty of culpable negligence. "Regular negligence is what we see a lot in our daily lives... it might be doing five or ten miles above the speed limit," said Waylon Graham, a private criminal defense attorney. "Culpable negligence is when a person engages in gross conduct with a total disregard for the safety of others and because of that someone is harmed or killed."
Wilson would not comment on the specifics of the Daniels case, but said proving culpable negligence generally means demonstrating a defendant knows the danger posed by his or her actions. "We've got to show that there was a danger and that he was aware of the danger and he didn't take any action to prevent the danger from exposing the public to any harm," said Wilson.
"What you would have to do if you were defending this man is attempt to show to the jury that he had done everything he could do to secure these dogs," said Graham.
An incident that occurred several days prior to the deadly attack is likely to figure prominently in the state's case. On March 28, Bay County Animal Control cited Daniels for allowing his dogs to run free and terrorize neighbors.
"It put [Daniels] on notice of a couple of things," said Graham. "One, his dogs were dangerous... and two, whatever means he had to secure them was inadequate."
Graham said Daniels' history with his dogs will be tough to defend and the age of the victim could benefit the prosecution. "Most jurors are very tender hearted when it comes to children and here you had an innocent child that was harmed," he said. "I think it would up the ante tremendously on the defendant."
The 14th Judicial Circuit Public Defender's office is expected to handle Daniels' defense. He is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on the manslaughter charge Tuesday.