Officially, the death of a Michigan woman mauled to death by three dogs is the result of a successful suicide attempt, but her boyfriend and the father of Rebecca Hardy’s 18-month-old daughter isn’t buying it. Some media outlets have labeled the strange case a “suicide by pit bull,” because the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the manner of death was suicide, the cause of death the injuries sustained from multiple bites and lacerations. But her fiancé does not believe it.
The Port Huron Times Herald reported December 11 that Matthew Grattan, boyfriend to Rebecca Hardy, the 22-year-old mother of one who died after being attacked by three dogs in Port Huron, Michigan on Thursday, refuses to believe that his fiancé deliberated tried to kill herself. “I, in no way, shape or form, believe that she was looking to hurt herself on that day,” Grattan told the Times Herald. “She had a little girl … She wanted us to be a family.”
But Oakland County chief medical examiner Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic ruled the manner of death a suicide after examination of the body and gleaning information from police reports on the matter. Rebecca Hardy, Dragovic noted, had just been kicked out of her house and had walked barefoot to the house where the dogs lived. Information provided his office noted that witnesses said the woman had climbed the fence, whereupon she was attacked by three dogs, a pit bull, a husky, and a pit bull-husky mix puppy.
“She climbed the fence and jumped in and basically subjected herself to the attacks, which constitutes a purposeful act,” Dragovic said. “It’s a sad story, but these are the facts.”
Dragovic further explained the ruling to the Detroit Free Press: “These were attack dogs. These were vicious dogs in an enclosed space. She obviously was aware of that, because she climbed over the fence to subject herself to this threat.”
The medical examiner told the Free Press in a separate interview that Rebecca Hardy had attempted suicide in the past. Dragovic noted that police investigations run alongside that of the medical examiner’s office and that his determination on manner of death was made partially due to information gathered from witnesses by police.
Investigators believe that, after Hardy climbed the fence and entered the yard, she was set upon first by the pit bull, then attacked by the Husky, both adult dogs. One witness attempted to help but was unable to reach her. It was the dog owner himself who eventually were able to get the dogs off Hardy.
The 22-year-old woman was first taken to Lake Huron Medical Center and later flown to Beaumont Hospital, where she died from her extensive injuries. The three dogs were euthanized the following day. The dog owner has reportedly cooperated throughout with police and has not been charged.
The dog attack has ignited a firestorm of debate on dog ownership and safety on social media, much of it centered around the pit bull breed, which, according to Dogbites.org, were responsible for nearly two-thirds of dog attack deaths over the past decade. Rebecca Hardy’s attack comes just days after a pack of pit bulls pulled 4-year-old Xavier Strickland from his mother’s grasp in Detroit, dragged him underneath a fence and mauled him to death.
“This is not a situation like the kid that was attacked by similar kinds of dogs out on the street,” the medical examiner told the Free Press, referring to the December 2 pit bull attack incident. In that particular case, the dogs’ owner has been charged with murder.