Opening arguments delivered in 2005 S.F. dog-mauling case

Slain boy’s mother charged with criminal negligence

Nicholas Faibish’s last day on earth will be the subject of close scrutiny over the coming weeks as attorneys square off over whether the 12-year-old boy’s mother was criminally negligent when she left him home alone with two pit bulls that mauled him to death.

In the first day of testimony in Maureen Faibish’s jury trial on charges of felony child endangerment Monday, prosecutor Linda Moore attempted to portray a mother who left her son behind while she attended her daughter’s school picnic, knowing that the family’s two pit bulls, Rex and Ella, might attack him after Rex had bitten him that same morning.

Defense attorney Lidia Stiglich, however, described a family that always had a close relationship with their pets and claimed Maureen Faibish had no reason to think Nicholas was in danger.

Maureen Faibish left the family’s two-bedroom apartment at about 12:45 p.m. on June 3, 2005, after trying to convince Nicholas, who had stayed home from sixth-grade classes at Roosevelt Middle School, to attend his 10-year-old sister Ashley’s school picnic. When she returned, police said, she found the two dogs standing above Nicholas, licking his bloody and mangled body.

Prosecutors contend that Faibish not only knew Nicholas was in danger from the dogs, but also left him in a situation where he would almost certainly encounter them. Nicholas had a learning disability and had difficulty following instructions, Moore claimed in her opening statements. His mother told him to stay in front of the television in the family’s garage and avoid the dogs, but the garage contained no food or working telephone or toilet.

According to San Francisco police Inspector Thomas Walsh, the only access from the garage to the house, where there was food and a toilet, was through the yard and rear bedroom where the dogs were being kept.

Maureen Faibish knew Nicholas was in danger because Ella was in heat and Rex was growing frustrated and territorial, Moore claimed. “Something changed when Ella was in heat and Mrs. Faibish knew it,” she said. “His mother left him alone with those dogs and it cost him his life.”

But Stiglich painted a different picture, one of a family in the stressful process of moving to a new and better life out of state. Maureen Faibish’s husband, Steven, had gotten a new job in Oregon, and the family of five was just days away from moving out of their two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco to a new, three-bedroom house in Oregon.

She said the family’s relationship with their dogs had always been affectionate and smooth. “The dogs loved the kids and the kids loved the dogs. There is nothing that occurred that morning, given the history of the dogs, that would have given any inkling of the horror that would occur,” she said in her opening statement.

If found guilty, Faibish faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Testimony is scheduled to continue today.

amartin@examiner.com

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