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Judge makes initial ruling on Rockingham County dog mauling case

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WENTWORTH, N.C. -- A little more than a year later, a controversial Rockingham County court case has gotten some resolution.

A judge ruled Wednesday that 56-year-old Daniel McCollum will receive 18 months probation after being charged with involuntary manslaughter. The charge was filed after a pack of dogs he owned attacked 62-year-old Jose Robles in November 2014, contributing to Robles' death.

The dogs were seized following the discovery of Robles' body. The judge ruled that McCollum will regain possession of nine of his dogs and the four remaining dogs will be euthanized. The judge said the nine dogs could return home either because DNA evidence exonerated them from having bitten Robles, or because they were merely puppies at the time of the attack and thus were likely not involved.

Robles, an anesthesiologist visiting from Mexico, was reported missing by family Nov. 23, 2014. The next day, Rockingham County sheriff's deputies found his body in a ditch across the street from McCollum's house covered in dog bites. An autopsy found Robles died of a heart attack but also stated that the dog bites contributed to his death.

In court Wednesday, Detective Webb with the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office testified about the day Robles' body was discovered. She said when a deputy drove down McCollum Road searching, his patrol car was attacked by McCollum's dogs, leaving visible scratches and bite marks on the vehicle.

Webb also testified that McCollum's dogs had previously attacked USPS and UPS workers' cars. She said that dogs presented such a threat that McCollum was forced to move his mailbox.

Webb stated that the 15 dogs were taken the Rockingham County Animal Shelter and dental impressions were sent to a lab in Florida. From those tests, Webb said they concluded that seven of the 15 dogs may have bitten Robles.

Kevin Baughn, director of the Rockingham County Animal Shelter, also took the stand Wednesday. The dog pack has been under the shelter's care since November 2014. Initially, 15 dogs, now 13 remain because of two deaths.

Baughn testified that the expense to the shelter to keep the dogs through Dec. 31, 2015, totaled $87,185. He expressed disappointment at the judge's ruling, that McCollum need only pay the shelter for medical expenses, which total $1,055.01.

Mark Atkinson, an attorney for the Robles family, delivered a letter from the family to be read to the court. The letter, from Robles' widow Teresa, explained that her husband of 31 years was a medical doctor, a father and a grandfather. She said his death has left the family in "most profound pain" and financial strain, as he was the family's provider.

Atkinson said the family is disappointed that McCollum pled "no contest" to the charges, rather than accepting responsibility and pleading guilty. He said the family plans to file a civil suit against McCollum.

McCollum is scheduled to reappear in court in July 2017 for possible sentencing once his 18-month probation is complete.

The judge also ordered that McCollum must pay $1,655.01 to the county. $935.01 for medical fees for his dogs, $120 for rabies shots for his dogs and $600 in citations stemming from his dogs attacking the patrol car.