The city teenager who died on Friday after a brutal dog attack had been half-submerged in the brook running along the back of the house when he was found, possibly having frozen to death, said the man who discovered his body.
Blood stains remained on the driveway of a Sherwood Avenue home on Sunday, two days after the attack that also wounded his friend and the dog’s owner.
Though the police identified the dead victim and the dog owner on Sunday, much of what happened remained unclear, including the events leading up to the attack. Families of both teenage victims say they intend to sue Clarke, whose 115-pound dog, nearby residents said, was often taunted by neighborhood kids.
Paterson Sgt. David Rios identified the boy who died as Kenneth Santilla, 13, and the dog owner as Paul Clarke, 50, both city residents. Schoolmates said Kenneth’s last name was Santillan. Authorities did not provide the other boy’s name, but his family attorney said he was a 13-year-old from Paterson.
Kenneth was “half in the water, half out” when found around 11 p.m., said Tughman Tookmanian, a Sherwood Avenue resident who searched the area for two hours with two other men.
“In my opinion, he froze to death,” Tookmanian said.
He called out to the police — who had been searching for hours before Tookmanian joined in — and they came running over. They checked Kenneth’s pulse and “were very bummed” to realize he was dead, Tookmanian said.
The two friends were leaving school on Friday afternoon when they came upon the house where a 115-pound bullmastiff named Trigger roamed the fenced backyard, neighbors say. The events leading up to the attack were unclear. But after the attack, the injured teenager ran down Sherwood Avenue around 4:30 p.m., Carmen Baez, a nearby resident, told The Record on Saturday. With bandage and paper towel she supplied, he wrapped his own hand and ran down Sherwood Avenue toward Chamberlain Avenue, Baez said.
Clarke was also attacked and bitten on the hand before stabbing the dog “quite a few times,” John DeCando, Paterson’s chief animal control officer, said Saturday. It was later euthanized.
Behind the backyards of Sherwood Avenue homes, between Molly Ann Brook, lies a stretch of empty grass more than 15 feet wide. That’s where the boys had been, said Tookmanian, who spoke to the surviving teenager to guide the search.
Neighbors said people are rarely seen going to the area, which is fenced off from backyards.
The Hillcrest section of Paterson, where the attack occurred, is lined with single-family homes and includes a mix of African-American, Hispanic, Indian and Middle Eastern backgrounds, residents say.
Clarke’s residence lies between the homes of both boys and Don Bosco Technology Academy. Two students at School 27 who knew Kenneth said he left their school after seventh grade for Don Bosco, a middle school for mostly eighth graders.
A man at Kenneth’s home who described himself as the boy’s father said his son was a “great kid” and a “jokester, prankster.”
“Never hurt a soul,” the man said. “He did not deserve to die like this.”
The family is pressing criminal charges against the dog owner, he said, without specifying.
Kenneth’s friend, who had run in the opposite direction, suffered dog bites to his arm that doctors are concerned could cause permanent nerve damage, said his family’s lawyer, Adam Rothenberg, a personal injury attorney at Levinson Axelrod in Edison. The family intends to pursue claims for his injuries, Rothenberg said.
After being treated at a hospital and released, the teen joined the search for his friend.
Clarke remained in the hospital on Sunday morning, said a woman leaving his house at 11 a.m. who described herself as a friend. Neighbors said Clarke lives with his wife and sons.
The dog’s body was taken to the state Department of Health on Sunday so it could be tested for rabies on Monday.
Neighbors said it barked loudly and often, but wasn’t aggressive unless provoked.
They said children coming out of school would taunt it, barking at it and sometimes throwing stones.
“They’re always teasing the dog,” said Felix Pinillos, who lives two houses away from Clarke. “I tell them to get away.”
One neighbor even recalled children crossing over the fence. “They would go onto the property,” recalled Marcus Lugo, whose grandmother lives next door.
Boys would get up “pretty close” to the fence and “they would bark at the dog,” said two former schoolmates of Kenneth’s who were passing by the house on Sunday morning and identified themselves only as Hilary and Jewel. It would bark back, they said.
Neighbors described a large animal that made its presence known.
“It’s a pony, but no higher,” said Zaneia Abraham, who would tell the dog to “shut up” when she smoked outside her mother’s house next door to Clarke’s. “When he sees people, he would bark.”
She added: “He’s not an aggressive dog, unless you’re picking on him. He’s a good dog. To me, he was a good dog.”
Nusrat Islam, who has lived on Sherwood Avenue for three years, said the dog would stand on top of a silver car parked in the backyard. “He’s always on top of the car, looking at us and barking,” she said.
She got along well with Clarke, who would come to cut her grass in the summer, she said.
Cindy Mauro, a certified professional dog trainer who serves North Jersey through Cindy Mauro Dog Training, said bullmastiffs can be “very friendly, very loyal, good dogs.”
She stressed that any dog is capable of inflicting harm, not just breeds like bullmastiffs or pit bulls.
“You can’t just say all bullmastiffs are bad,” she said. “There’s plenty of really, really good ones.”
She stressed the importance of proper training early on in a dog's life, and said no one should approach a loose dog.