A Marshall County grand jury is scheduled to convene next week and among the many cases up for review is the case in which three pit bulls from Gilbertsville are alleged to mauled a Benton man to death, and their owner alleged to have delayed reporting the death while tampering with evidence.
Daniel K. Alexander, 29, of Gilbertsville, was in Marshall District Court July 31 for the preliminary hearing in which his attorney, public defender Bethany Wilcutt, and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Crystal Thompson sparred during testimony of the lead investigator in the case, Kentucky State Police Detective Brian Hill.
Hill recalled the same story clearly laid out in the warrant for arrest, which alleges Alexander saw the body of 46-year-old Brian S. Butler in the ditch outside his home on June 29 and instead of calling authorities to report it, took one of his "muddy" dogs inside for a bath before leaving to visit the home of a friend.
Hill testified when he arrived on scene, after a passing motorist saw Butler's body and called it in, it "pretty quickly looked like the death of a fatal dog attack." He said a couple neighbors told police there there three pit bulls that regularly ran loose in the area that were aggressive--one woman reported they had attempted to attack her as she rode her bicycle just days before Butler died. Not long after receiving that information, he said two pit bulls were barking at detectives who followed them to Alexander's home.
Hill said there were a number of rumors floating around in the community but one thing was for sure: "drugs appear to be a factor in this investigation."
Hill's testimony included private messages sent between Alexander and his alleged drug dealer, which Hill said establish a timeline proving Alexander was aware of the dead body just outside his home.
Regarding the dog he washed before he again left his home allegedly knowing Butler's body was lying in the ditch, Hill said that bath "changed our scene that night" and whatever was on the dog, which he believed was likely blood, could have helped investigators in reaching a better conclusion of exactly what took place leading to Butler's death. Instead, Hill testified, Alexander altered evidence and then left the scene.
But Wilcutt took issue with the idea that investigators were so quick to settle on Alexander's dogs, despite the blood found on two of them. She said that doesn't mean the dogs are responsible for the death of Butler and the bites didn't necessarily come from those dogs--she said Gilbertsville is near a wooded area and it could have been a different animal responsive for the attack.
"I understand Detective Hill's frustration that he didn't get the full story from my client initially," she said. I think there's a lot of probablys and maybes and quite frankly it remains unclear to me how washing mud off a dog impeded the investigation…I think the felony charge for the dog is a stretch and there is no indication my client didn't intend to call 911."
Thompson said Alexander's actions "go straight to the heart of probable cause," noting that "when he finally did get straight" with his story and started telling officers the truth, he revealed that by bathing the "muddy" dog and then claiming it had been inside all day, he intentionally tried to remove that dog from the picture of the scene at hand--which she asserted was in line with finding probable cause for tampering with evidence.
"Det. Hill said, 'He changed our scene,' and he did," she added.
District Judge Jack Telle said considering the totality of the evidence presented, he felt it was clear probable cause was established. He noted that making the representation of the dog having been inside all day when it wasn't may align more with a charge of false statement than tampering but acknowledged failing to disclose that fact impeded the investigation.
Alexander is charged with tampering with physical evidence, a Class D felony, and duty of person, hospital or institution finding or possessing dead body, a Class B misdemeanor.