By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
June 11, 2014
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Inside this garage in this Concord, Calif. home is where two-year old Jacob Bisbee died on July 22, 2010.
He was mauled to death by his family’s three pit bulls.
Now all that’s left is a memorial for Jacob and a family divided by the tragic turn of events.
The man blamed for Jacob’s death is his step-grandfather, Japanese-American Steven Hayashi, who is married to a Filipina named Leticia.
Steven was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment and is facing up to 10 years in prison.
Steven was the owner of the three pit bulls plus two others in the backyard.
They were all eventually put to sleep.
He is scheduled for sentencing this Friday and before he hears from the judge, Steven and his family wanted his side of the story told.
On the advice of their attorney, Steven and Leticia declined an on-camera interview.
But they have chosen their close friend, Filipino-American Peter Purificacion to speak on their behalf.
Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox says that although Steven was not there during the mauling he knew the dogs were dangerous and especially aggressive toward children but did nothing to protect the children from the dogs – a charge Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge John Kennedy agreed with.
Steven denies these claims in court.
Their friend, Peter, attests to Steven’s love and concern for his family.
He says Steven took in Michael Bisbee and his sons to live in his home.
Peter said Michael was in fact the negligent one.
“That’s one thing that Steven is guilty of — adopting, opening your arms to somebody who you know is not capable of protecting their family,” said Peter.
He stresses that Steven has no prior criminal record and no history of violence.
He sees this only as an unfortunate incident that will especially devastate Leticia, a nurse, who relies on her husband a lot.
“Who’s going to pick her up going home or who’s going to drive her back and everything?” asked Peter. “And how’s money going to come if she’s not working?”
Peter’s daughter, 16-year-old Erika, is the god-daughter of Steven’s wife Leticia.
Erika along with other family members wrote petitions to ask the court not to put Steven in jail.
They say he should not be blamed for the death of a grandson whom he dearly loved.
“The kids or mainly Jacob is either found with the grandma, Steve, or the father,” said Erika. “And during the entire investigation they only questioned those two except the father. So the father is pretty much missing.”
The family gave Balitang America an exclusive look inside where Jacob Bisbee managed to leave his room and wander into the garage.
Four years ago, before the tragic accident, Leticia’s son, Michael, who was separated with his wife, slept with his sons in this room.
Michael left for work early that morning then afterwards Jacob allegedly left the room and wandered down the staircase.
As he reached the base of the stairs, Jacob entered the garage where his lifeless body was ultimately found by his grandmother.
“Contra Costa County has to look for what was actually happening on the family,” said Peter. “They arrested Steven because a kid died on his property. I don’t think those are grounds for someone to get arrested. Contra Costa needs to investigate what’s really behind the reaction. Why are the kids like this? Why is Michael staying with the Hayashi family? You don’t just arrest somebody if you don’t have the evidence of what’s really happening with the family. That’s all I could really say.”
The family has many questions of their own.
They are wondering why Michael Bisbee was not named a suspect despite being summoned to court three times and never appearing.
They also ask if the judge can assume the time of death when the pathologist testified that he did not know the time of death?
Steven and his family will learn his sentence on Friday but they will continue to push for an appeal.
You can contact Rommel Conclara at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.