Jury finds U.S. man whose dogs killed elderly neighbor not guilty

A jury acquitted a man whose six dogs fatally mauled his elderly neighbor in her front yard.

The jury deliberated several hours before finding Jose Hernandez, 55, not guilty Thursday of criminally negligent homicide in the November 2005 death of 76-year-old Lillian Stiles.

Investigators said Stiles was walking back to her house after getting off her lawnmower when the six dogs attacked her. She suffered severe bites over her entire body and was pronounced dead at her home near Thorndale, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northeast of Austin.

Hernandez had faced up to two years in a state jail for the felony charge.

"I feel very sad and I give (the Stiles family) my most sincere condolences," Hernandez said after an interpreter told him the verdict, according to the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.

Jack Stiles, the victim's husband, was inside the couple's home when his wife was attacked. He shot and killed one of the dogs. The other five were later euthanized.

"We are very disappointed that it was a unanimous verdict," Jack Stiles said. "The reason we were given is that the dogs were not previously proven to be dangerous."

Hernandez testified that he kept three of his dogs inside a chain-link fence with an electric wire, and he let some of the others roam his yard. The dogs were gentle and had never previously attacked anyone, according to testimony from his neighbors and friends, reports AP.

Milam County doesn't require dogs to be locked up or leashed, but prosecutors argued that Hernandez owned dangerous dogs.

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