'Burb Dogs

Scarier than man-eating pit bulls is the felon who owns them

Edouard, who is presently unemployed, may be trying to reform. Bottle-feeding his baby one morning on his porch, he nuzzles the infant with his nose -- then, when he notices he's being watched, he sits up and turns away, as if embarrassed to be seen in such a tender display. But if he did move to Pembroke Pines for quiet, for safety, for a nice place for his kids, he has sabotaged it all by not keeping a low profile, by giving those around him reason to worry.

"He's got a record," Kathy Broderick says. "He's a thief, and then the child thing. In my mind, it played heavy on me."

Colby Katz
That sheen on Leon Edouard's front door is indeed tin foil over the windows.
Colby Katz
That sheen on Leon Edouard's front door is indeed tin foil over the windows.

Police reports indicate officers visited Edouard's home four times between October 25 and October 27 on complaints of barking and animal abuse. Only on the 28th did Officer Matthew Dolton run Edouard through a database. Dolton learned he was wanted on a four-month-old misdemeanor warrant in Glades County for skipping $255 in traffic court fines.

Edouard was arrested, spent a night in lockup, paid the fine, and was back home on November 4, when code inspector David Gazes came by to check the dogs. Gazes' report noted then that "All Dogs have been removed from premises."

If that assessment was accurate, it wasn't for long. Gazes was back three days later on another barking complaint, though his report says he didn't notice a violation when he checked. He didn't return calls seeking comment.

Later that month, Gazes told the Pelhams that Tisha had given Edouard the boot. But enough had become too much for the Pelhams. "I told Lori, it's obvious that whether it's Doreen or whether it's Leon, if we have issues, we're not going to be able to get them resolved with the public services in Pembroke Pines," Randy Pelham recalls. "And being a cop, I can't have any problems." They moved to a quiet home with a big yard in Plantation and immediately felt terrible for the couple who bought their house, Wendy and Thomas Miller.

The Millers, who had lived in a Miami Beach apartment for seven years before moving to Pembroke Pines, loved the place and closed three weeks after the Pelhams accepted their offer of $270,000. "I have to tell you, we must have seen 70 houses," Wendy Miller says. "We were really, really happy."

At first, it was quiet, the Millers say. Within a month, though, the dogs were back. "Every day, every night," Thomas Miller says of the barking. "And there were lots of dogs, certainly more than a half dozen." After seeing a dog standing at eye level on a crate or box and after a neighbor, Tanya Sanchez, reported seeing four pit bulls wandering loose, Wendy Miller stopped going into her yard and allowing her cats there.

By late February, the Millers were calling code enforcement. On March 13, Gazes came to their home, Wendy recalls. She contends that after she showed the inspector Edouard's backyard, where four pit bulls were milling, Gazes took pictures and yelled to Edouard, "Yo, we need to talk about your dogs."

But when Wendy followed up with Gazes, he claimed he had seen only one dog in the yard. He didn't have any photos. And what made her think she could get rid of Edouard? She replied, because her name is Wendy Miller, and she's from Boston, and she doesn't have to put up with it. Still, to this point, she's had to deal with the dogs anyway. "I've lived in fear," she says.

In late March, the dogs were barking up a storm when Thomas Miller went out to fix some lights in the backyard. The 6-foot-9 lawyer looked up to see his 5-foot-3 wife standing over him with a meat cleaver in hand and a pitchfork nearby. "I just said, 'I have to protect you,'" Wendy says.

"My reaction," Thomas recalls, "was to say, 'Come on, let's go inside. We don't need this. '"

Stacey Woolsey's May 13 encounter with the pit bulls should have been a cautionary tale. That afternoon, the 37-year-old Comcast contractor and his partner, Dave Courtney, walked through the gate on the left side of Edouard's house to upgrade the cable amplifier, a squat green utility box in the backyard.

A notice had been left on Edouard's door a few days earlier, informing him that utility workers were coming, Woolsey says, but the courtesy wasn't returned: No signs warned of dogs.

After about five minutes of working on the equipment, Woolsey heard a noise. When he turned, he says, four pit bulls were charging him. He took off running toward the fence at the side of Edouard's yard. As he leaped on it, breaking the top board, the hounds were upon him. "As I'm trying to fuckin' kick, they bit my ass and my calf and my hamstring on both sides," Woolsey says. "[Edouard] literally had to beat them off with his hand and a stick."

Edouard subdued the dogs, penned them in the garage, and confronted Woolsey. He said the contractor didn't have any business back there -- and didn't he know you're not supposed to run from dogs?

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