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Joel Chirieleison, 6, was a sweet young man who loved to please and could be counted on to help with tasks.
However, he will not be in class when Chiefland Elementary School opens on Monday.
Chirieleison, who was left alone in the yard for 10-15 minutes on Thursday, Aug., 7, died after being attacked by two pit bull dogs at the home of his paternal aunt, Heather Claar, on Northwest 162nd St.
Claar had driven the boy's father to work that morning and returned home to pack for a trip. She left Chirieleison playing in the yard. When she went to check on him 10-15 minutes later he was on the ground and unresponsive. She called 911 at 8:15 a.m.
In addition to the Levy County Sheriff's Office, Levy County Department of Public Safety, Levy EMS Medic 2 and Battalion 1, Levy County Animal Control, the Fanning Springs Fire Department and the Gilchrist Sheriff's Department responded to the call.
Undersheriff Brett Beauchamp who was at the scene with Sheriff Bobby McCallum, said the child had injuries consistent with those inflicted by a dog.
McCallum said on Tuesday in a phone interview, “It's just an unfortunate tragedy to me. It happened in just a 10-minute period.”
McCallum said the investigation is not closed and his office has not received an autopsy report from the 8th Circuit Medical Examiner's Office in Gainesville.
To help the family cope, a victim advocate from Another Way, Inc., in Chiefland was called to work with them.
While the family mourns the loss of a boy described as happy and friendly, the firefighters, deputies, emergency medical service and animal control workers who responded have attended mandatory debriefing and counseling.
“ Our folks are having a tough, tough time,” said Undersheriff Brett Beauchamp who went to the home. McCallum also spent private time with each of the personnel at the scene.
The boy's body has been released by the medical examiner's office to a cremation service and the family have been silent on whether they will hold a burial or memorial service.
But an uncle, Brian L. Claar, has established an account on gofundme where people can donate to help defray the family's expenses. As of Tuesday afternoon, $4,100 of the $5,000 goal had been raised.
A happy child:
Chirieleison's kindergarten teacher Ellen Poe said, “It just breaks my heart.” She remembered Chirieleison as always smiling. “You get really close to your kids in kindergarten. They grow up so much with you.”
Poe said, “He loved being outside and playing with the other kids.”
“He was friends with all the other kids,” Poe said. “He was always a pleaser and made friends with the other kids when he came here.”
The school faculty and staff are going to take up a memorial to help the family out with the expenses.
The two dogs suspected of killing Chirieleison were put to death on Friday afternoon after the Sheriff's Office gave the OK to Levy County Animal Control. Four more dogs who were on the property ― a third pit bull, two Catahoula leopards and a plot hound ― are still in custody at the county animal shelter. A shelter worker said all six animals are in excellent condition and up to date on their vaccines when taken into custody.
McCallum said the family gave permission to euthanize the two dogs at the time they were taken into custody, but his office took the extra step of having them examined by a veterinarian to examine them before dispatching them.
The dogs were about 2 years old and had been raised by Heather Claar and her family ― which included her children. Chirieleison had been around the dogs in recent months so they were familiar with each other.
McCallum said his office is trying to give the family some time and space to grieve before contacting them again.
A sheriff's press release noted there were no eyewitnesses to the attack. “I don't think we'll ever find what triggered it,” McCallum said.
“I don't think we'll find anything more,” he said, although the probe is not concluded.
But after all the reports are done his office will sit down with the State Attorney's Office and review the facts. “I will reserve comment on where it may end up.”