Wednesday, June 23, 2010

11-year-old mauled by pit bull; mother concerned with lack of accountability

By Hillary Federico, The Middletown Press

The father of an 11-year-old girl mauled by a pit bull in mid-May is set to appear in civil court Monday at New London Superior Courthouse.

Thomas Sheehan, of 331 Timber Ridge Road, Middletown, was allegedly hosting a family party when his daughter was viciously attacked by an unleashed pit bull. The dog belongs to the son of Sheehan’s girlfriend, the 11-year-old’s mother, Merryl Simon Macek, said.

According to Macek, her daughter suffered severe injuries from the attack including five deep lacerations and two puncture wounds under the jaw. Three-fourths of the girl’s right eyelid was also ripped off.

She was admitted to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center after the incident and received facial reconstructive surgery. Skin from the girl’s temple area was used to recreate the missing eyelid, Macek said.

Though she was not present when the incident occurred, Macek said 911 was not called nor was the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

“My concerns are why this was never reported, and why no one has yet to be held accountable,” Macek said via e-mail. “Why was this neglect and endangerment not reported to DCF by the Middletown PD? And why were no charges brought against the dog owner for the leash laws, lack of registration and vaccination?”

“This was a horrible tragedy, a life-altering injury to my daughter that has spiraled into a mess of continuous neglect by every agency in the system.”

According to Connecticut court records, Sheehan has no prior criminal record.

Update Jume 29, 2010 9:38pm - The following article is by Hillary Federico, The Middletown Press:

Mother of 11-year-old girl attacked by pit bull feeling 'very defeated'

After a civil hearing held Monday in New London Judicial Court, the mother of an 11-year-old girl mauled by a pitbull is not receiving the justice she thinks she deserves.

“She is feeling very, very defeated,” Melissa Smith, a family friend, said of the girl’s mother.

On the evening of May 15, Thomas Sheehan was allegedly hosting a family party when his daughter was viciously attacked by an unleashed pit bull, belonging to the son of Sheehan’s live-in girlfriend.

Court records show that Merryll Simon-Macek and Sheehan, the divorced parents of the 11-year-old, reached an agreement “not to sell, encumber or otherwise convey the property of 331 Timber Ridge Rd.” in Middletown.

The judge also issued no court order against Sheehan, maintaining his right to mandatory visitations.

The 11-year old suffered severe injuries from the attack including five deep lacerations and two puncture wounds under the jaw. Three-fourths of the girl’s right eyelid was also ripped off.

She was admitted to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center after the incident and received facial reconstructive surgery. Skin from the girl’s temple area was used to recreate the missing eyelid, Macek said.

Police did not call the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), according to a statement given by both Smith and Macek. In the police report issued by the Middletown Police Department, DCF was called. DCF has not returned any phone calls concerning this matter.

As a result of the incident, the girl is allegedly experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and “does not want to see (her father),” Smith said. “She will be scarred for life.”

According to Smith, Macek was not able to appear in court, herself. Instead, her attorney, James Hall was present on her behalf.

“Merryll had to make a decision between bringing (her daughter) to the hospital or showing up in court,” Smith said. “She chose to bring (her daughter) to the hospital.”

Smith also said that Macek, advised by her attorney, is unable to speak to the press. Both Macek and Hall could not be reached for comment. Sheehan could also not be reached for comment.

According to Connecticut court records, Sheehan has no prior criminal record. As of now, no additional court dates have been set.

“It’s because of this that little girls like (her) go through life damaged,” Smith said.

Update July 15, 2010 10:24am - The following article is by Molly Buchanan, NBC Connecticut:
 
Dog Bite Victim Recovers, One Bracelet at a Time

Two months ago, Abbigael Sheehan’s childhood changed when a pit bull attacked her. The medical bills are piling up, her mother said, but the little girl has taken things into her own hands and helping pay the bills through her bracelets.
Abbi was at her dad's home in Middletown when a pit bull attacked her. Most of her eyelid was torn off and she had five deep lacerations across her face. "I was bit on my face by a dog," Sheehan said.
The pit bull was euthanized, but the ordeal goes on for the little girl.
Abbi's road to recovery has been slow and painful.
As medical bills started to grow, her mother, Merryll Macek, of Niantic, said, Abbi felt like she needed to do something to help and decided to make and sell the bracelets to pay for her own medical expenses.
"She's selling bracelets because her father isn't helping pay for the medical bills,” Macek said. “I haven't been able to work. My husband has had to take time off and we're behind on everything."
Abbi has teamed up with an Internet Connecticut jewelry store called Jewels by Mel, to sell her jewelry online.
"There's something wrong with an 11-year-old trying to pay for her own bills. I felt I needed to help," Melissa Smith, owner of Jewels by Mel, said.
The "All for Abbi" bracelets have been popular with people and boutiques across the country. Smith said many are buying in bulk.
"We've had orders from South Carolina, Florida even the United Kingdom," Smith said.
Abbi is determined and continues to inspire her mom everyday.
"I just look at her and say, ‘If she can do this, I can do this.’ She's amazing," Macek said.
All the bracelets cost $4 and will be sold indefinitely. The Thames River Detachment of the Marine Corps League donated the thread and charms.
NBC Connecticut reached out to Abbi’s father but he did not respond.

Update July 15, 2010 4:29pm - The following article is by Hillary Federico, The Middletown Press:

Parents of pit bull attack victim return to court in battle over medical bills

The divorced parents of the 11-year-old attacked by a pit bull return to civil court on Monday, July 26 at the Middletown Probate Courthouse to try to resolve a verbal sparring match over the child’s medical bills.

The father, Thomas Sheehan of 331 Timber Ridge Rd., says his ex-wife’s allegations that he has not paid any of his daughter’s medical bills is untrue.

“(My ex-wife’s) allegations are completely and totally false and will show themselves in court,” Sheehan said. “All of (my daughter’s) medical bills have been covered by my health insurance and I have taken $5,000 out of my own pocket to pay for her deductibles. That’s an affirmation.”

Joanna Eldridge, a resident of Waterford and friend of the victim’s mother, said that Sheehan’s statement is “absolutely not correct and totally untrue.”

“He is in contempt of court for not paying her medical expenses,” Eldridge said. She claims that Sheehan has gotten in trouble with the law before as a result of drug use and “bad parenting.”

But Sheehan has no prior criminal record, according to Connecticut court records.

“(The victim) writes in a diary and writes ‘I hate him, I don’t want to see him, I hate what he did to my face, he ruined my summer,” Melissa Smith, a friend of the family, said. “He doesn’t even know (his daughter).”

According to friends of the victim’s mother, Merryll Macek, her telephone and Internet have been disconnected because she does not have enough money to cover the cost of her daughter’s surgeries as well.

“Merryll paid for it all,” Eldridge said. “The only thing he paid for is the therapy — which he violated.”

Sheehan and his daughter were to meet regularly for therapy, a stipulation set forth by a judge at the New London Superior Courthouse.

Both Eldridge and Smith said that Sheehan violated his rights by bringing his live-in girlfriend to one of the sessions, initially meant for only Sheehan and his daughter so that they could “reconnect.”

Sheehan did state that he has attended therapy sessions with his daughter, though he did not confirm or deny that his girlfriend was ever present.

Sheehan further stated that the doctors have advised him not to let his daughter get any additional facial reconstructive surgery. Because she is so young, Sheehan said the victim need only wear SPF 50 sunscreen every day for the next year.

Presently, Smith, the victim and the victim’s mother are selling “All 4 Abbi” bracelets of which 100 percent of sales go towards paying for the victim’s medical bills.

“He hasn’t paid a dime,” Smith said. “Our goal is to send her to a plastic surgeon in Pennsylvania where she can get reconstructive surgery.”

For now, Sheehan, who is being represented in court by John Harvey of the Wethersfield law firm Barry, Harvey and Later, just wants his daughter to be “out of newspapers and off the nightly news.”

“I just hope she heals nicely and, like a normal kid, gets to spend time with her father,” Sheehan said.

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