Detectives Believe Dogs Attacked Man Found in Canal

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On Tuesday, Fresno County investigators pulled the body of 74-year-old Robert Simonian from a canal near Barstow Avenue, between Floyd and Bishop Avenues.

They discovered Simonian was training for a mountain hike along the canal And was carrying a backpack full of rocks When he drowned.

But a coroner’s report now suggests he may have also been attacked by dogs before going into that canal.

Fresno County Search and Rescue teams spent their Independence Day trolling this canal for any sign of Robert Simonian.

Simonian had left his home at nine a.m. the morning of July 4th, and that was the last time he was seen until the next day when crews found his body.

“The cause of death for Mr. Simonian has been determined as drowning however, he did have marks on his body that are consistent with an animal attack,” Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

Mims recalled another case from April 14th, where they found another body in the same canal, this time it was dry.

“The cause of his death is as a result of an animal attack,” Mims said.

During the course of that investigation, the sheriff’s office impounded five dogs from the area.

Without being able to prove the dogs were responsible for his death, they were released back to their owner on June 16th.
Then, three weeks later, Simonian was found in the same canal, also with attack marks.

Since then, investigators have re-impounded the dogs, and are using outside help.

“To help us in this case, so that we can do some comparisons with the dogs that we do have in custody as well as the marks on the victims body,” Mims said.

But they have not yet determined responsibility for either attack so they are asking for the public’s help.

“We need independent information from people who maybe have had contact with animals in that area,” Mims said.

The dog’s are being held at Fresno Humane Animal Control, pending the investigation..

President Brenda Mitchell says all pet owners have a responsibility to keep their animals under control.

“We need to have conversations with pet owners to make them understand their responsibility, and that is definitely, even in the County of Fresno, keeping your pets secured on your own property,” Mitchell said.

If you have any information, Sheriff Mims is asking the public to contact detectives directly. You can call detective Palma at (559) 600-8204 or you can call Crime Stoppers at 498-STOP. 

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