Watch the moment Detroit Pit Crew's Terri Sumpter discovers gruesome remains of dog fighting in Detroit's Den of Death.
Headline from the Detroit Free Press:
Tipster turns out to be behind Detroit ‘house of horrors’
As the head of a dog rescue group, Theresa Sumpter is familiar with disturbing scenes.
But in December, when she got a call to check a vacant house on Laing Street on Detroit’s east side, she was horrified by what she found.
“The smell of blood just hit us in the face,” she said.
In the basement, a dead dog was decomposing alongside nearly countless pieces of other dogs. There were legs, tails, paws, and other flesh, all strewn across the floor. Even the walls were covered with fresh blood.
“Of course, I was in shock,” Sumpter said. “We investigate dogfighting, but this isn’t something that dogfighters usually do.”
Half a year later, someone confessed to brutal crimes in the home. But the culprit was surprising: a boy, only 14 at the time of the discovery, who had alerted Sumpter to the home in the first place.
At first, the teen denied he was involved. But on July 28, he was convicted of animal fighting, animal killing/torture, and abandoning/cruelty to two or three animals, said Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
He is serving time in a juvenile facility. The sentence is not exactly fixed — he will face a review hearing in November to determine whether his treatment should be modified, Miller said.
But whenever the teen is released, he will need much more prolonged and serious help, Sumpter said.
“This kid has been hurting many animals for God only knows how long,” she added. “The level of cruelty he’s capable of is incomprehensible, really.”
The teen’s mother, who did not want to be identified, rejected how her son has been portrayed. She says her son has always been kind to animals and just got mixed up with the wrong crowd.
“It’s turning our life upside-down,” she said of her son’s convictions. “He only showed compassion. He only showed love to (animals). He never showed no harm.”
A positive meeting
The teen, whose name is not being published because he is a minor, lives with his mother and five siblings. His father was murdered in a robbery in 2002, and his mother said she has been juggling temporary jobs until a recent leg surgery.
To Sumpter, the head of Detroit Pit Crew, the teen was not exactly a stranger. She had seen him around the neighborhood quite frequently while she was picking up strays. She met him and his family when they had wanted to turn over a stray dog they had found nearby.
The family has been especially helpful with reporting other dogs: they have called in at least 30 in the last year or so, Sumpter said. The teen even drove around with Sumpter in Detroit Pit Crew’s vehicle, because he wanted to volunteer in the effort to pick up dogs. She said it seemed like a positive thing to get him involved.
But according to the teen’s 21-year-old neighbor, Jeremiah Moore, the teen was also known to fight dogs, an accusation later affirmed by court records. Moore said he used to think the teen was all right — but then when he heard about the dogfighting, he told his nephews to stop hanging out with him.
The “house of horrors,” as Sumpter calls it, came in December. That was when the teen told her about the vacant property on Laing Street, because he knew it was a dogfighting house — but he wouldn’t say how he knew that.
Then Sumpter discovered the carnage.
The house in question sits near the corner of a grassy, tree-lined street on the city’s east side. Tim Johnson, 26, lives next door and was there when the police arrived. He remembers at least four cars showing up and that detectives asked residents whether they had heard anything strange. Johnson said he hadn’t, and was disturbed by what happened.
“That was gross,” he said. “That was cruel. That’s not right at all. That’s sick.”
Sumpter didn’t suspect the teen at first. But in the days and weeks afterward, she began to think he knew more than he was saying. One early sign was when a neighbor reported him for dogfighting. That neighbor flagged her down in her rescue car and told her about several kids fighting dogs, but didn’t know the teen was sitting out of eyesight in the van’s backseat.
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