A Toledo couple whose Belmont Avenue residence housed both their four young children and dog-fighting facilities received prison time yesterday for dog-fighting convictions.
Montrese Riley, 32, and Allison Gilmore, 27, appeared moments apart in separate Lucas County Common Pleas courtrooms.
Riley, who pleaded no contest to three counts of dog fighting, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. Gilmore, who entered an Alford plea to a count of attempted dog fighting, was sentenced to 11 months in prison.
"The home was set up for dog fighting," county Dog Warden Tom Skeldon said after the hearing, adding that the sentences were appropriate. "There was a pit in the house and blood splatters."
He added that they recovered 10 pit bulls and four showed active dog-fighting scars. The dogs have all been euthanized.
Toledo police discovered the dogs, pit, and several unattended children at 1407 Belmont Ave., on Aug. 28, when an officer on a foot chase followed an unrelated suspect to the home's front door. The officer came across a partly opened door and discovered a 2-month-old child on the couch inside.
Police found five children, ages 2 months to 9 years, two pit bulls, and evidence of dog fighting in the home. Eight more pit bulls, including puppies, also were found on the property, Mr. Skeldon said.
Just beyond the dining room, overlooked by a large bay window, was an indoor pit smeared with blood, authorities said.
Gilmore was arrested that day and charged with five counts of dog fighting. Her four children were taken from her custody by Lucas County Children Services. The fifth child in the home was not related to Gilmore.
Gilmore entered an Alford plea Feb. 19 to the lesser-included offense of attempted dog fighting. In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains innocence or does not admit commission of a crime, but still pleads guilty based on personal belief of his or her best interest. It is treated as a guilty plea.
Judge Ruth Ann Franks, who presided over Gilmore's case, called both the evidence of dog fighting and Gilmore's irresponsibility for her children that day "appalling." She said jail time was necessary for Gilmore to truly understand the gravity of her actions.
"The most important thing should be .•.•. a safe environment," Judge Franks said of the home where children are raised. "They removed your dogs, and they removed your children. What a tragedy."
Gilmore declined to speak before sentencing.
Riley, who was sentenced by Judge Gary Cook, apologized for what occurred in his home, saying that he "didn't really understand some of this."
He added that he was ready to "step up and take care of this."
Defense attorney Ronnie Wingate said that Riley's sole focus was to ensure that his children were cared for. He added that Riley was ready to accept responsibility.
Judge Cook sentenced Riley to 10 months for each dog fighting charge and ordered them to run consecutively. He granted a two-week stay of the sentence and ordered Riley to appear for transportation to prison on April 14.
After both sentencings, defense attorney Alan Konop, who represented Gilmore, said the children were currently in a relative's care. He added that his client has made efforts to "get things going," including being reunited with her children.
"When she started out, there were some concerns," Mr. Konop said of Gilmore's behavior after her initial arrest. "As time went on, she really, I feel, started to put things together."
Mr. Skeldon said people continue to breed pit bulls for illegal reasons.
"In 1993, we picked up 50 [pit bulls]," he said. "Last year, that number was 1,354."
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