Murder charges for couple whose dogs killed jogger

In this undated photo provided by Lapeer County Sheriff shows one of the two dogs that attacked and killed Craig Sytsma while he was jogging in Lapeer County's Metamora Township, Mich. (AP Photo/Lapeer County Sheriff)

LAPEER, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Prosecutors have filed second-degree murder charges against a couple they say owned two dogs that fatally mauled a 46-year-old jogger in rural Michigan.

The Flint Journal reports that Lapeer County Prosecutor Tim Turkelson issued the warrants Thursday against 45-year-old Sebastiano Quagliata and 44-year-old Valbona Lucaj. They’re also charged with possessing a dangerous animal causing death.

A message seeking comment was left for the couple’s lawyer Thursday night. The dogs are cane corsos, a mastiff-like breed.

Craig Sytsma (undated courtesy photo)
(Undated courtesy photo of Craig Sytsma.)

Craig Sytsma of Livonia was attacked July 23 in Metamora Township, 45 miles northwest of Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press reports that federal authorities say the couple are Albanians living in the U.S. illegally and facing deportation.

The prosecutor says a hearing on whether the two dogs will be put down will be postponed from Friday. They had attacked people before the mauling that took Systma’s life.

Sytsma is originally from Grandville. Thursday night, his mother Jacque Sytsma praised the prosecutor for filing charges.

“I couldn’t get through it if I had hatred and bitterness in my heart. I can’t do that, but I do feel that justice should prevail, that something has to be done and that you can’t just walk away from a crime,” she told 24 Hour News 8 in a phone interview. “It’s the third time it happened, and … someone had to die before anything was done.”

Sytsma’s funeral is set for Friday.

A fund has been set up online to help his family cover hospital bills and funeral costs, and there has been a college fund for Sytsma’s daughter Tyra set up at Fifth Third Bank.

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