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Man Pleads Guilty in Pontotoc Dog Attack

Posted by Steve Rogers | July 17, 2012 / 11:41am | Local News, Crime, Faith & Family
From Staff and NEMS Daily Journal Reports
PONTOTOC COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) -- Pontotoc County resident James Casey Swanson accepted responsibility today in the January 2011 dog-mauling death of Ronnie Waldo.

The 31-year-old Swanson pleaded "no contest" to manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. But Pontotoc County Circuit Court Judge "Jim" Seth Pounds suspended 15 years leaving five to serve. Swanson will be given credit for the 16 months he's been in jail.

He was fined $3,000 dollars and must spend five years on post-release supervision.

Waldo was mauled on his way to borrow a water-heater part on Swanson's property off Randolph Loop.

Swanson, who was indicted in April 2011, told the court and Waldo's family he was very sorry for what happened. "I didn't mean for it to happen," he said turning around toward family members in the courtroom.

"I hope they will forgive me," he told the court.

Apparently he was in probation for another charge and this new sentence will run at the same time with whatever's left on a revocation of his parole. He remains in custody awaiting that revocation.

Swanson is a two-time convicted felon, with prior sentences on burglary and larceny charges.

Pounds said he doesn't know why pit bulls are allowed in Mississippi, challenging the Legislature to do something about it. He said it was about the fourth case since he's been circuit judge that he's presided over a case related to the dogs.

Prior to the plea, Assistant District Attorney Paul Gault told the court rposecutors would have shown that nine witnesses could support evidence that Swanson's dogs killed Waldo and that Swanson knew they were dangerous.

Witnesses, Gault said, would say they saw Waldo "being eaten" by the dogs and had to be shot by Sheriff's Department personnel.

The prosecutor also said evidence shows the dogs appeared not to have eaten or been watered for a long time, and that they were vicious. Swanson also was warned by several people about the dogs' propensity for violence, Gault said.

Swanson entered what's called an "Alford plea," which means he believes he should plead because he was likely to be convicted.

Swanson was not at home when the attack occurred.

Gault said he met with Waldo's family and they said they were "comfortable" with the plea deal.

Jury selection had begun when Swanson decided to plead.

Waldo died Jan. 26, 2011 after the dog attack on Swanson's property at 879 Topsy Road, off Randolph Loop in Pontotoc County.

News reports then stated that Waldo was renting a trailer home on Swanson's property just 50 yards from where his mangled body was found by a friend.

Waldo reportedly was going to Swanson's home to borrow an element for a hot water heater that he and Raymond Blansett were repairing at Waldo's trailer. When Waldo hadn't returned after 20 minutes, Blansett went to look for him.

Blansett claims that he saw the dogs attacking Waldo. Waldo was pronounced dead on the scene.
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