June 19, 2024

Prairie City dog-mauling trial completes first day of testimony

Mother of 4-year-old victim takes the stand

Jessica Arndt, the mother of 4-year-old Jordyn Arndt, testified Thursday in the case of a 26-year-old Prairie City woman charged with child endangerment following a dog-mauling incident resulting in Jordyn's death.

Wright is accused of leaving the 4-year-old unattended with an American Staffordshire terrier at 300 S. Marshall St. in Prairie City, April 22, 2013. According to Jessica Arndt's testimony, Wright was babysitting Jordyn Arndt at the time of the animal attack, which caused injuries ultimately resulting in the child's death.

While on stand, Jessica Arndt shed tears multiple times — once while family photos of her daughter were shown to the jury and again when she described the day of the incident to the court.

She testified that Wright called her directly following the attack and described the defendant as being "hysterical" over the phone.

The Prairie City mother and the defendant were friends for nearly 15 years prior to the incident. Jessica Arndt was aware she had three dogs, but had no reason to believe her children were in any danger in Wright's care, she said.

On the stand, Jessica Arndt said Wright told she didn't consider the dog to be her property, but the Wright's. She also said Wright once told her she hated that dog.

During cross-examination by defense attorney TJ Hier, Jessica Arndt confirmed a statement she made to a reporter two years ago directly following the incident saying she did not blame Wright for what happened.

The mother's testimony followed Jasper County Attorney Kelly Bennett's opening argument. Bennett listed previous incidents involving the defendant's dog, which he claims prove the defendant had knowledge of the dog's aggressive behavior and it will show the defendant is guilty on each count.

Bennett also warned the jury they would see bloody images from the day of the incident.

Throughout the day, jurors endured photographs that showed the aftermath of the attack, including a picture of a puddle of blood in Wright's backyard.

Prairie City's Ambulance Department Director Carl Vander Kamp was among the first EMT's on scene April 22, 2013 and took the witness stand Thursday. According to Vander Kamp, as he entered the defendant's yard that day, he saw "quite a bit of blood" and a "small child laying on the ground."

From the time he arrived on scene to when Jordyn was airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, he testified the girl never showed any vitals or signs of breathing.

Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty also testified Thursday, at which point the state played the 911 call directly following the attack.

On the recording, Wright appeared distressed saying the 4-year-old was bitten by her dog and told the dispatcher there was a lot of blood.

According to evidence submitted by the state, the attack took place between the defendant's house and a garage. In addition to the puddle of blood in the grass, jurors were also shown images of blood droplets throughout the property, a blood stained doorknob and boot and blood splatter on the garage wall.

Testimony from Jasper County Deputy Jeremy Burdt — who was a responding officer — detailed splatter on the garage and explained it was the result of a dog rapidly shaking its head back and forth.

Burdt described the dog as being aggressive when he arrived on scene. He said he told the defendant's husband — who had hold of the dog at that time — he would shoot the dog if it got loose.

Another respondent on the day of the incident was Jasper County Varsity League Head of Animal Control Jill Harter. Harter also described the dog as being aggressive, and at one point she said it lunged at her, which caused her to jump behind Burdt.

Photos of the dog, which showed the dog's fur stained with blood, were shown to the jury and submitted into evidence.

Court adjourned at 2:30 p.m. and resume at 9 a.m. Friday.

The defense is expected to give its opening argument Monday or Tuesday.

If convicted, the defendant could face up to 25 years in prison for child endangerment resulting in death, a Class B felony, and up to 10 years for a conviction of neglect or abandonment, a Class C felony.

Wright is also facing charges of assault on a peace officer causing bodily injury and interference with official acts in this case. Wright allegedly kicked the arresting officer — former Prairie City Police Chief Louis Modlin — in the chest during a struggle at 601 S. Norris St. in Prairie City.

Contact Alex Olp at aolp@newtondailynews.com