Ajia Brown took the witness stand Tuesday and recounted the moments before two pit bulls attacked him in Hanover nearly two years ago.
"I went outside to catch fireflies," the 10-year-old said.
At the end of the one-day non-jury trial, the owner of the pit bulls, Chester Little admitted guilt to two counts each of having an unlicensed dog and failing to vaccinate a dog for rabies, then was found guilty of harboring dangerous dogs. Sentencing is set for May 2.
Little, 49, lives in a separate dwelling from his mother, Marjorie Nicholson, but both properties are at 415 Pleasant St. in Hanover.
Ajia and his mother, who live in Uncasville, Conn., arrived in Hanover the evening of June 1, 2010, to visit Nicholson.
It was shortly after 9 p.m. that Ajia went outside to catch fireflies.
The mauling: He told Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock he heard the dogs barking, but that Nicholson assured him they wouldn't hurt him. She then went to the other side of the property to water plants, he said.
"The dogs slipped out of the (fence)," Ajia testified. "They started jumping and licking me."
But then one of the dogs bit him, he said, and he ran onto the porch.
"They kept jumping up and I got overwhelmed," he said, so he held up his arms "like a scarecrow" to try to keep the dogs off him.
Ajia said he panicked and tried to run to safety, which is when the dogs attacked in earnest.
Elizabeth Brown testified she ran outside when she heard her son yell for help.
"They were on their hind legs, biting his face," she said, so she scooped up Ajia and started to carry him inside.
Stumbled: "They just kept coming after us, biting him," Brown said. "They wouldn't stop. ... They were going to kill him."
Brown said she lost her balance and Ajia wound up on the ground, where the dogs continued to maul him.
"I scrunched him up as best I could and laid on top of him," Brown said; in the process, she was bitten in the face.
Ajia testified his mother acted as a "force field" to protect him.
Neighbors distracted the dogs -- Angel and Midge -- so Ajia and his mom could run inside, according to testimony.
One dog shot: Hanover Police arrived and shot Midge, but by that time Little had taken Angel inside his home, an officer testified.
When officers returned the next day and informed Little they would be taking custody of Angel, he told them she'd been moved to another property out of the area, according to police testimony.
Little also told police his "official story" would be that only one dog attacked Ajia, according to police.
He maintains Ajia taunted the dogs and opened the fence gate, defense attorney Farley Holt said. But Ajia denied those allegations.
Dogs 'triggered': Several people, including the defendant, two of his former tenants and his mother, all testified the dogs were loving and gentle with children. And Judge Trebilcock didn't seem to doubt that.
He noted that although Little is guilty of harboring dangerous dogs, there was no reason for him to believe Angel and Midge were dangerous prior to the attack.
"(Ajia) put out that scent of fear," the judge said. "It triggered something in the dogs."
Trebilcock also said he doesn't believe Ajia taunted or released the dogs.
"These dogs were trying to kill this young man," Trebilcock said. "These are dangerous animals."
Charges of simple assault and reckless endangerment were thrown out for lack of evidence.The judge also dismissed two counts of failure to confine dogs because Little had previously been found not guilty of them by a district judge.
"I'm just glad it's over," Elizabeth Brown said afterward.
Where's Angel? Senior deputy prosecutor Amy Eyster said she doesn't know where Angel is, and Little isn't saying.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Little said. "She's safe and secure."
He said he was told if the dog is out of state, Pennsylvania's dangerous-dog provisions can't be enforced.
The law, in part, requires owners to keep a $50,000 liability insurance policy, muzzle dogs when in public and submit to state inspections.
Eyster said if Angel is out of state, there's nothing she can do to bring the dog back.
SURGERIES, MEDICAL BILLS KEEP COMING, ATTORNEY SAYS
In the two years since he was viciously attacked by two pit bulls, Ajia Brown has fought to have a normal life, his civil attorney said.
Now 10 years old, Ajia has undergone 17 surgeries and 54 other procedures since the June 1, 2010, attack, according to Bucks County-based civil attorney Thomas Newell.
"And he's still not done," Newell said. "The medical bills alone are over a half-million (dollars)."
A large portion of Ajia's scalp was torn off during the attack, as were much of both ears, according to testimony.
Although initially given a skin graft on his head, specialists at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut implanted expansion balloons on each side of Ajia's head, then used saline to expand the balloons twice a week until the skin had stretched enough for surgeons to cover his entire scalp.
Because of that, Ajia now has hair on the top of his head, although he still has a very large scar.
'Resilient': The same expansion procedure was done so surgeons would have enough skin to reconstruct Ajia's ears, according to Newell, who said cartilage from the boy's ribs also was needed for that reconstruction.
Ajia must undergo at least one more ear surgery, Newell said, but is an active boy.
"My biggest concern right now, frankly, are the psychological scars," Newell said. "He's been an incredibly resilient young man ... (but) one of these days it's going to hit him like a ton of bricks."
Brown's insurance has so far covered her son's surgeries and procedures, the attorney said.
He confirmed the Browns have not yet filed a lawsuit against dog owner Chester Little or the man's mother, Marjorie Nicholson, who owns the property.
"We have a variety of options," Newell said. "They have not received any (compensation) money yet."
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.