Dogfighting in Marion County
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
Investigators say the man they want to interview for a second time, Willie Lewis, has a long criminal history. Over the phone, Lewis maintained his innocence. He says it's all a lie--the property isn't his, he hasn't been there in 2 to 3 years and the mess belongs to his relatives who own it. But sheriff's deputies have a different story.
Basketball is not the reason deputies came to the house. But signs of a different sport are still in the yard...dog-fighting. These three dogs were recovered by animal cruelty officers with lots of scarring and malnourished bodies. One female in particular had recent injuries on her snout.
A neighbor, Francisco Martinez says he's seen twenty cars or more parked on the street leading to the house.
"It's the last thing we had on our minds," says Martinez. "We just saw people going back there late at night, they were just making too much noise so the dogs got irritated about it."
But sheriff's deputies say it was the other way around. After an anonymous tip, they came and found evidence of dog-fighting... carpet and panels to make a makeshift ring. Family members living here told them Willie Lewis owns the dogs. Two days later, another relative told detectives that Lewis had taken an abandoned vehicle from the property. Deputies say Lewis took it to a vehicle shredder facility to get about 325 dollars for the scrap metal.
"Judging from his history, it's possible people would be concerned about coming forward," says Lt. Robert Pack with the Marion County Sheriff's Office. "Because there are some arrests for domestic violence and resisting arrest so i could see that being an issue."
The issue now for investigators is to finish connecting the loose ends on both cases. A similar dog-fighting investigation six months ago was closed because there wasn't enough evidence to continue.
Meanwhile, Martinez can't believe what may have happened just a few yards from his back yard.
"We heard dogs barking," says Martinez. "But we always have dogs barking around here, you know?"
Detectives interviewed Lewis wednesday and are looking to talk to him again but don't have a warrant out for his arrest. Lewis says it's his father that sold the car to the vehicle shredder.
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