CHESTER, S.C. - A pit-bull owner whose dogs allegedly attacked and killed a man was cleared of involuntary manslaughter Thursday.
Lawyers for Frank Paul Speagle successfully argued no evidence directly linked his dogs to the December attack on John Mickle.
Jurors deliberated less than two hours before finding Speagle innocent. He did not testify but was supported by testimony of experts and friends who said the dogs were docile and had not been known to attack before.
Prosecutors charged Speagle should have known his dogs were dangerous, calling witnesses who said the dogs bit them or attacked their car tires. The dogs, 14-months and 8-months old, were put to death after Mickle's death.
''My dogs were never guilty of any crime. They were never vicious. Small children played with my dogs. I think now justice has prevailed,'' Speagle said. ''I just want my reputation built up again. I was wrongfully accused and I was guilty before I ever came in any courtroom in the state of South Carolina.''
As the verdict was announced, Speagle grabbed his fiancee's hand. His family cried and cheered. Mickle's family was silent and would not comment on the verdict.
Mickle's body was found stripped of clothes, with many dog bites not far from Speagle's house. He had been walking at about 2 a.m. on Dec. 4 when he was attacked, police said. No one saw the attack, though the state's witnesses said the bite marks were consistent with the teeth of Speagle's dogs and blood on their fur matched Mickle's.