Funeral services were held today for Craig Sytsma, 46, who on July 23 was attacked and killed by two dogs in Metamora Township in rural Lapeer County, Michigan. The owner of a consulting business, Sytsma Services, he had been a metallurgical engineer and technical director at Eltro Services in Oxford MI. His memorial service was held at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Jenison MI. He was a cancer survivor and inveterate jogger who was on his usual route when he was attacked by two Cane Corsos – an Italian mastiff breed – on a Wednesday evening. His mother, Jacque Sytsma, remembered that he jogged to keep in shape in an effort to ward of the colon cancer that almost defeated him.
The two dogs that are believed of killing him are currently in quarantine, according to the Lapeer County prosecturo’s office. A judicial order is being sought in order to euthanize the pair of dogs, as well as another dog and a litter of puppies found at the home of the owners. A judge’s order may take several months to process. According to MLIVE, the dogs in question had allegedly attacked two other people in the past. The owners were not at home at the time of the attack, according to reports.
Sytsma left behind a teenage daughter and two adult sons, as well as a grandaughter. He was known as a man of faith.
The Metamora couple whose dogs killed Systma are reportedly in the United States illegally. They were already facing deportation at the time of the attack. Valbona Lucaj, a 44-year-old woman from Albania was granted asylum in 1997 after bribing a US immigration official, according to federal court records. Her husband, Sebastiano Quagliata, 45, of Italy, arrived a month earlier as a tourist and overstayed his visa. Now the pair is facing involuntary manslaughter charges after their dogs killed Sytsma while he jogged past their home.
(Cane corso - courtesy of Lapeer Sheriff)
Quagliata and Lucaj have been appealing their deportation orders ever since immigration officials found out that the latter had paid off a New York immigration officer with $3000 to grant her the asylum she sought. Quagliata received asylum because he was Lucaj’s husband. However, earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen refused to stop the deportation, having ruled that Lucaj "lacked good moral character arising out of fraud in obtaining asylum."
Quagliata and Lucaj lied to immigration officials to obtain asylum and then naturalization, according to federal court files. Lucaj applied for asylum in New York in 1997. The immigration officer who interviewed her found "a number of inconsistent statements" about her alleged persecution in Albania. The officer declined to recommend asylum. However, Immigration and Naturalization Supervisor John Shandorf, overruled the officer. A year later, the FBI arrested Shandorf and an accomplice, Luigi Berishaj, on bribery and conspiracy charges. They alleged that the pair had granted asylum to 20 Albanian refugees in exchange for bribes ranging from $2,000 to $3,000. Berishaj fingered Lucaj.
Lucaj claimed she had never met Berishaj. Immigration officials, however, found that "documents were clearly altered" and that her story was not credible.
They were arraigned in Lapeer District court today and may face up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Prosecutors also charged the couple with possessing an animal causing death. As some of their supporters quietly wept, they appeared before Magistrate Michael Delling who ordered a $500,000 bond for both Lucaj and Quagliata, who he considered a flight risk due to his immigrant status. Both appeared in handcuffs. Lapeer County prosecutor Michael Hodges had asked for $1 million bond for each.
Jason Malkiewicz, who represents Quagliata, told the court that his client still retains his immigrant card and has no criminal history. “He has been a union painter for 20 years. He has numerous ties to the community. He was arrested at 4:30 at his work; his wife turned herself in voluntarily last night,” he testified. Attorney Malkiewicz asked the Magistrate Delling to release his client on a personal bond and to require that he wear a GPS tether. The request was refused. A hearing on the fate of the dogs has been adjourned.