ST. LOUIS Ten-year-old Rodney McAllister was no match for the stray dogs that neighbors had complained about for days.
The fourth-grader was found mauled to death by a pack of dogs Tuesday, bite wounds on most of his body, pieces of his clothing scattered around the park across the street from his home. The attack has horrified many in St. Louis and led to the jailing of the boy's own mother for not keeping closer watch over him.
"He was literally eaten by the dogs," Police Chief Ron Henderson said. "They fed off of him."
Neighbors told police they heard the sounds of "suffering" Monday, two hours after Rodney told his mother he was going to play basketball in the park.
Before Rodney's death, neighbors had complained about stray dogs in the area around Ivory Perry Park. Just a few days earlier, two officers from the city's Animal Control division had responded to the complaints.
"We did not see anything," said Richard Stevson, Animal Control program manager.
Two-person crews are usually sent to investigate complaints, but Stevson said Rodney's death prompted the agency to evaluate its procedures to see if larger crews should be used.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, animal control officers rounded up 10 dogs in and around the park two chows, a German shepherd, a Rottweiler and several mixed breeds. It was unclear how many of the dogs were involved in the attack.
Rodney's mother, Gladys Loman, 35, did not know where the boy was until police talked to her the morning his body was found. She told police she assumed Rodney had spent the night at a friend's house.
"Her lack of control put him in harm's way," the police chief said. "Parental control should have been exercised."
Loman was charged with child endangerment and held on $5,000 bail. She also faces an earlier charge of unlawful use of a weapon. Rodney's 13-year-old mentally retarded brother was taken into state custody.
The family had moved to St. Louis in December from the town of Malden and lived in a homeless shelter for several weeks.
"Rodney was a real likable kid," said Ken Lentz, principal at Malden Elementary. "He was a little mischievous, but he just didn't have anyone to look out for him."
Lentz said the state Family Services Division had more than once taken custody of the two boys, and each time they were returned to their mother. A spokeswoman said the agency has not yet been able to confirm that.
At Rodney's elementary school Wednesday, a few blocks from the park, more than a dozen pieces of red yarn were tied to the railing. The sign read, "In memory of Rodney McAllister."
"It's been sad," Principal Tiffany Anderson said. "Some kids are crying. We're having a difficult time."
When school let out Wednesday afternoon, parents and teachers escorted the children out, keeping them close.
Toni Carleton picked up her 6-year-old granddaughter Shaina and held her hand tightly.
"It's basically a great neighborhood," Carleton said. "It has a lot of beautiful homes, and a lot of beautiful people."
But stray dogs, she said, have been a dangerous problem. Carleton said Shaina and her brother have been bitten by loose dogs. People train the dogs to fight for sport or other reasons, she said, then let them go or allow them to roam freely.
Carleton said the dogs are one reason she and Shaina's parents try to know where the little girl is at all times. "I think it starts at home and knowing where your child is at a particular time of the day," she said.