Sheriff: Boy, 4, appears to have been mauled to death by dog

Kylar Johnson's body found Monday morning

QUAIL CREEK, Texas - Preliminary autopsy results found that a 4-year-old boy who was found dead about 14 hours after his disappearance had been mauled by a single dog, investigators said Tuesday.

Kylar Johnson was playing in his front yard in the 1100 block of Old Goliad Road near Village Lane in Quail Creek, Texas, when he was last seen at 8 p.m. Sunday. His father said he was cleaning his car and when he looked up, his son was gone.

Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said Kylar's body was found at about 10:30 a.m. Monday. Homeowner Manuel Garcia found Kylar's body in his back yard near one of 10 pit bulls that were chained in the yard, investigators said.

"I found the child, and I found something I didn't want to see," Garcia said. "I don't think anybody would want that."

Garcia said his dogs, all tethered on 10-foot chains, were not raised for fighting, but they were kept as pets and used for home protection and wild boar hunting. He said they have never bitten anyone before.

"I've always had 'em," Garcia said. "My granddad introduced me to a pit bull when I was a little kid. I love the animals. An animal -- it's a very protective animal."

O'Connor said that when he went to the scene, the dogs appeared to be friendly. He said the dogs did not bark when investigators entered in the area.

Garcia's yard was searched at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday, but nothing was found, investigators said. Kylar's home was about a half-mile from where his body was found, investigators said.

Deputies said they trying to determine how Kylar got so far away from home and wasn't found when the yard was previously searched.

Investigators said Kylar may have played games with some people in which he would hide and they would call his name or a nickname.

"This may have been one of the reasons why," O'Connor said. "The game he played was to hide. This is unconfirmed to us, but it would surely make logic to how we saturated that whole area, calling the child's name out and, in fact, there was no response. He may have (been) hiding purposely."

O'Connor said it is also possible that Kylar did not answer when he heard searchers calling his name because he may have been taught not to.

"What do we teach our kids to do? Never talk to strangers," O'Connor said. "There was 100 strangers at one time out there."

Kylar's body was taken to the medical examiner's office in Austin, Texas. O'Connor said preliminary autopsy results found that Kylar had been mauled by one dog. He stressed that the official cause of Kylar's death has not been determined.

"We feel strong that it was a single-dog attack," O'Connor said.

The dog that was near Kylar's body was quarantined, investigators said. A veterinarian will examine the dog to determine if that dog was involved in Kylar's death.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to the family," Garcia said. "My condolences to the family. Our hearts are broken, my family as well. We had a prayer last night. It helped me sleep, but I feel bad for the family."

Children's Protective Services said it been called out to Kylar's home twice before his death. Officials said the cases involved accusations of abuse and lack of supervision. However, CPS said they didn't find anything during either investigation.

Kylar's home was crime scene in June.

Deputies said Michael Zapata, 20, was fatally shot in the head at the home.

According to the deputies' report, Cole Johnson, 28, and his brother interfered with their investigation. They were accused of locking a gate to keep an ambulance away.

Johnson and his brother were both charged with interfering with police. In 2007, Johnson pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge and served a one-year probated sentence.

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