McKeesport mother pleads guilty in fatal dog attack
The mother of a newborn who was killed by a family dog in McKeesport last year pleaded guilty on Monday to misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of children and allowing the canine to attack.
Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski sentenced Brandy Furlong, 22, of McKeesport to six months of house arrest and three years probation for the endangerment charge and two years probation for the dog attack charge.
On Feb. 16, Furlong left her two-day-old son, Howard Nicholson Jr., unattended in a baby carrier on the floor while she was in another room. She heard the child screaming minutes later and ran in to see the child covered in blood with the pet husky, Nikko, hovering over it. The baby died a short time later at Children's Hospital.
Furlong and the boy's father, Howard Nicholson Sr., are living together at another location in McKeesport. The couple no longer has any pets, and Furlong's two children are living with their biological father in Somerset County, according to court testimony.
Defense attorney Nicole Jackson said Furlong hopes to get shared custody and again become part of the lives of her children, 3 and 7.
“This is a terrible tragedy,” said Jackson. “She has suffered a lot since this has happened.”
Furlong, who was accompanied in court by Nicholson, responded to the judge with only yes-and-no answers. Outside the courtroom, she said she was unhappy with the way Deputy District Attorney Laura Ditka handled photos showing her bloody infant in the courtroom. People seated in the gallery could see them briefly.
“I'm not really pleased in having to look at the pictures,” Furlong said.
Ditka told Borkowski that it was interesting to note that when issues involving the ownership and fate of the dog blamed for the attack were at stake, the courtroom was filled to capacity. Now, when charges directly related to the death of a baby were at issue, few people were in the courtroom, she said.
Borkowski ordered the dog seized from a new owner by the state dog warden and quarantined until its “eventual possible destruction.” It was sent to a sanctuary for dangerous dogs and former fighting dogs.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.