Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Teeth Say Phineas Didn't Bite Girl; Forensic Experts Compare Marks, Say Mouth of Condemned Yellow Lab Is Too Big

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Teeth Say Phineas Didn't Bite Girl; Forensic Experts Compare Marks, Say Mouth of Condemned Yellow Lab Is Too Big

Article excerpt

The bite doesn't fit.

That's what two dog-bite experts claim in new court filings in the contentious case of Phineas, a yellow Labrador retriever condemned to die for biting a girl in Salem, Mo., last summer.

A series of court challenges have so far delayed the dog's sentence, which was imposed by the town's mayor in July 2012. The 7- year-old girl, bit on her abdomen, was not seriously injured in the incident, which occurred during a visit to a friend's house where Phineas was a pet.

But as the months passed during which the dog was briefly kidnapped from the county animal shelter and then it seemed city officials were hiding the dog from its owners Phineas' unresolved fate attracted widespread public interest and led to division within the small town.

Now, two experts working for the dog's owners said they believe Phineas did not bite the girl at all. They said the oval-shaped wound is too small and the dental pattern inconsistent with Phineas' teeth. Their findings were included in a filing this week by the attorney for Phineas' owners asking a Dent County judge to reconsider his opinion upholding the mayor's ruling. A state appellate court also is expected to consider the matter.

One of the experts, Dr. Kenneth Cohrn, a forensic dentist in Lady Lake, Fla., compared photos of the girl's wound and Phineas' teeth. He struggled to adjust the photo sizes for comparison. But once he did, he felt certain that Phineas did not inflict the bite. The bite mark shows bruising and small cuts that look like a dog's full jaw clamped closed on the girl's side. Cohrn said he found no evidence of the deeper puncture wounds expected from Phineas' four large incisors. But the size difference stood out the most to him.

"It's not even close," Cohrn said in a phone interview Thursday. "The dog's dentition is so much larger than the pattern injury. …

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