After spending the night at his dad’s South Miami-Dade home, 4-year-old Javon Dade Jr. wandered away Wednesday morning, setting off a panicky search and a call to police.
Twenty minutes later, police made a gruesome discovery: Javon had been mauled to death by dogs in the backyard of the Goulds home, his limp body found in the overgrown grass near a fence.
In the same yard: Two adult female terrier-boxer mixes, an adult male pit bull and three terrier-boxer mixed puppies between two and four months of age.
The young boy’s grandmother, Jocelyn Dade, collapsed, calling Javon a “beautiful child, my Pooka.”
Another woman, who declined to give her name, said she knew the child well as she sat crouched and crying near a chain-link fence several houses down from the incident.
“It’s so sad. I don’t understand,” she said.
Later Wednesday, police were interviewing Javon Dade Sr. to determine whether negligence was involved in the death of his son. Police said any decision on a criminal charge likely would come from the Miami-Dade state attorney.
Though owning a pit bull in Miami-Dade is against county ordinance and can carry a civil fine, it’s not likely to be applied in this case.
“It’s not going to accomplish anything,” said Kathy Labrada, who oversees shelter operations and enforcement at Miami-Dade Animal Shelters. Labrada said that the pit bull was in “custody,” and that it “can’t do any more harm.”
Javon was a “a loving kid who would talk to anybody,” said Tomas Rodriguez, a relative who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He said that he saw Javon in mid-July when he and another relative traveled to Orlando to attend a family wedding.
“I just remember him at my wedding calling me by my other cousin’s name, Michael. He knew I wasn’t Michael,” Rodriguez said. “I said I’m not that ugly and he would laugh. He was kind of messing with me. He was just a sweet kid, he is going to be missed.
“His life got robbed from him.”
Labrada said that Dade Sr. wasn’t breaking any laws by having the six dogs on his property because three are puppies. Homeowners are not permitted to have more than four adult dogs living in a single-family home on less than an acre.
She said the dogs will remain under the animal shelter’s control until the police investigation is completed.
Miami-Dade police received an initial call about a missing child shortly after 10 a.m., according to detective Robin Pinkard.
They found the child’s body 20 minutes later. She said the animals were immediately turned over to the county’s Animal Services department, which was on the scene.
Pinkard said early indications are that the boy simply wandered into the home’s backyard, in the 12300 block of Southwest 230th Street, unattended. It’s likely, she said, he was playing with a puppy when one or more of the mature dogs attacked.
“We don’t know which dogs attacked the boy yet,” Pinkard said.
Miami-Dade records show the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the Silver Palm Park section of Goulds is owned by Kenneth Narbin. He couldn’t be reached and a call to his attorney was not returned. Neighbors said Dade Sr. lived there with his girlfriend and that the couple had moved in only about three months ago.
None of the neighbors recalled seeing the child before. He lived with his mother, Doreen Reyes, in Palmetto Bay. She showed up at the home on Wednesday appearing emotionally distraught.
Neighbors familiar with the pack in the backyard gave mixed reviews. Some said the dogs posed no danger; others said they were too scared to go anywhere near the fence that kept them in the yard.
Max Maclin, who lives a couple of doors down the street, said he’s never noticed a problem with any of the dogs, who would run along the fence following his car whenever he drove by.
But neighbor Rossie Arroyo, speaking through a friend who served as a translator, said that she was picking little orange flowers against the home’s fence on Saturday when the adult male — who Arroyo said was named Blue — approached and began barking aggressively.
“The owner called him and called him, and when [the dog] finally came back to the house, she kicked him pretty hard on the side. The dog yelped and ran into the house,” said Arroyo.