Milam County Dog Owner Not Guilty

By: Chace Murphy Email
By: Chace Murphy Email

A jury's verdict in a unique trial has left a Milam County family in shock.

Jose Hernandez of Thorndale was found not guilty Thursday of criminally negligent homicide.

Hernandez, 55, was charged in connection with the 2005 dog mauling death of Lillian Stiles.

It was thought to be the first trial ever in Texas where an owner was criminally charged in connection with his animals' actions.

"I'm very, very surprised. Very, very surprised," Nikki Williams, Stiles' granddaughter, said. " I don't know what else to say. I'm heartbroken."

Stiles, 76, was mowing her yard near Thorndale in November 2005 when she was attacked by six dogs Hernandez owned. Some of the dogs were mixed breeds, while others were pit bulls.

Stiles husband, Jack, said at the time the only way he recognized his wife was because of the clothes she was wearing.

But despite the brutality of the attack, there was one key question apparently left unanswered.

"We're disappointed because the reason we heard up there was that the dogs were not proven dangerous," Jack Stiles said. " Well, we feel they were dangerous. They killed my wife."

Even with Hernandez's acquittal, the Stiles family says they will press on with legislation aimed at making it easier to prosecute owners of so-called dangerous dogs.

The family recently enlisted the help of State Representative Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown.

Gattis is sponsoring legislation that could hold owners criminally responsible for the actions of their animals.

"It's not going to affect it at all because we're going to push that through," Stiles said. "And hopefully, the new bill and the new law will keep this from happening to someone else."

If convicted of criminally negligent homicide, Jose Hernandez faced up to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

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