Pit bull attack leads to charges against Groton woman

Groton — Police have levied charges against a Groton woman whose pit bull attacked and injured a 74-year-old Groton man and killed his dog.

Erika Santrock, 35, of 136 South Road was charged by Groton Town police last week following investigation into the Aug. 28 attack, which occurred while Ralph Conwell was out walking his silk terrier, Lacy.

Conwell, who also lives on South Road, said the attack occurred on his way home from the nearby Calvin Burrows Field. The pit bull, which was tied up in a neighbor's yard, snapped his lease and charged him and his dog.

"I saw him running towards us. I tried to get (Lacy) in my arms. I think he was after my dog but hit me in the legs and knocked me down," Conwell recalls. "I rolled down the hill. When I got up he already had my poor dog in his mouth."

Conwell said during the struggle to protect his dog and himself he sustained multiple lacerations, several severe, to his arms and legs. He used pepper spray on the pit bull, which he said had no effect. He said he was able to wrap the dangling piece of the dog's leash around a pole.

Conwell was hospitalized after the attack but says both arms "are about healed." He said he has yet to undergo surgery to repair a previously replaced knuckle.

"Everything has healed as much as it's going to be. I guess it could've been worse," he said.

Lacy, nearly 4 years old, suffered serious injuries and was put down shortly after the attack to avoid further suffering.

"It's a shame. We got her when she was six weeks old. She was a beautiful mutt," Conwell said. "We really miss her."

The pit bull was seized by the town animal control officer and later euthanized. Conwell said he had been attacked twice before by dogs from the same home. He was unaware of Santrock's arrest, but said he was friendly with the homeowner where the dog was tied up.

Conwell, who has a pistol permit but was not carrying a gun at the time of the attack, said he is frustrated by state law that bars him from carrying his stun gun — something he said would have worked better than the pepper spray. He said it would have been too unsafe to fire a gun in the area.

Conwell said he plans a lawsuit in an attempt to recover some of his medical expenses.

Santrock is free on a promise to appear on Nov. 20 in New London Superior Court. She faces charges of annoyance by a dog on a highway, owning or harboring a dog to create a nuisance and failure to license a dog.

By state statute, annoyance by a dog involves an animal "which habitually goes out on any highway and growls, bites, or snaps at, or otherwise annoys, any person …" It carries a maximum $50 fine and up to 30 days in prison for the first offense, or up to $100 fine and 60 days in prison for subsequent offenses.

First offenses for both nuisance dog and unlicensed dog are infractions.

Santrock could not be reached for comment.

g.smith@theday.com

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