A plucky girl in rural Michigan gave two alleged thieves more than they bargained for when they barged into her home on January 30. It was in Lapeer County, north of Detroit, where local police say that James Wasson (53) forced his way into a home on Five Lakes Road in North Branch Township. 
 
During the home invasion, Wasson encountered an 11-year-old girl hiding in a bathroom closet. When she pointed a shotgun at the home invader, he fled the residence. Fortunately, the girl was not harmed. It was not clear from reports why she was home alone at the time.
 
Police later caught up with Wasson in Imlay City – the capital of Michigan’s pickle industry – in a car where he was expected by Rhonda Steward (31). Wasson was arraigned on February 1 on charges of first-degree home invasion, second-degree home invasion, burglary tool possession, receiving and concealing stolen property. As a felon, Wasson was also charged with being illegally in the possession of a firearm. As for Steward, she has been charged with first-degree home invasion, second-degree home invasion, as well as possession a burglary tool. Bon was set for the pair at $200,000 and $100,000, respectively.
 
Beautiful Lapeer County has been the focus of international attention because of the trial of Valbona Lucaj (44) and Sebastiano Quagliata (45), who are charged with the July 2014 death of a jogger in Metamora Township. The married pair may also face future deportation proceedings when their asylum application was terminated in 2009, following an investigation into alleged bribery. They are both being charged with second-degree murder. It was on July 23, 2014, that a Cane Corso dog belonging to the couple mauled Craig Systma to death as he jogged past their home.  The charge is a first of its kind. Prosecutors in the case decided to file the unprecedented charges because of two prior incidents involving the couple’s fierce dogs. Descended from dogs used by ancient Romans for boar hunting, they were dogs of war in medieval and Renaissance Europe, Cane Corso dogs can weigh more than 100 pounds and are known for anti-social behavior.
 
It is expected that the case will hinge on testimony to be provided by as yet undetermined animal behaviorist. A similar case occurred in 2001, when an expert on animal behavior testified on behalf of the defense. It was in 2001 that Diane Whipple was mauled to death by two dogs in San Francisco: the owners were convicted. Attorney Jason Malkiewicz, who is counseling Quagliata, was quoted in the Flint Journal as saying that there are differences between the two cases and that he believes that prosecutors are “trying to argue that murder can be done by omission.”

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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