Nga Woodhead was sitting in her Tacoma hospital room with her husband on Tuesday afternoon, watching “Dr. Phil” and waiting for her discharge paperwork when her gaze went blank and she slumped over in her chair.
Charles Woodhead ran for help from the nursing staff at Tacoma’s St. Joseph Medical Center, but his wife of 41 years died, almost a week after she was attacked by two pit bulls in Spanaway.
On Wednesday, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office said Nga Woodhead had died of a heart attack brought on by “extremity contusions, lacerations and fractures due to dog bites.”
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department plans to recommend prosecutors file criminal charges against the dogs’ owner, said spokesman Ed Troyer.
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“They were his dogs. They should have been locked up and it sounds like they caused her death,” he said.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said his office will decide on charges after they “gather all the information, the police reports, the medical examiner’s reports. We need to know the history of these dogs, why these dogs were loose and what the dog owner knew.”
Lindquist said a murder charge is not an option unless the dog owner directed the animals to attack, which “does not appear to be the case here.”
“We would be reviewing charges dealing with recklessness or negligence,” he said, adding that the dogs’ owner could potentially be charged with one or more felonies.
“The attack and the trauma triggered the heart attack,” Charles Woodhead said. “I’m sad and mad. I’m mad at an owner who has two pit bulls who should have known better. Now my wife is gone because of that.”
The dogs’ owner told KOMO-TV that he doesn’t know how the animals got out of his fenced yard.
“They’re really nice dogs,” he said.
Nga Woodhead, 65, was on her daily walk on Oct. 30, about a mile from her Spanaway home, when the two dogs lunged at her, her husband said.
“She didn’t see the dogs coming. They ran up behind her and attacked,” he said.
She was able to call her husband from her cellphone but wasn’t able to say where she was. A passer-by who had stepped in to help her at 162nd Street South and Pacific Avenue South got on the line and gave Charles Woodhead their location.
Charles Woodhead arrived minutes later as medics were loading his wife into an ambulance.
Troyer said that Nga Woodhead had tried to fend off the attack with her umbrella. The woman’s right arm was shredded; bruises covered other parts of her body, her husband said.
People who witnessed the attack tried to help Nga Woodhead, including a neighbor who offered his gun to a passer-by. The passer-by took the gun and shot one of the dogs, causing it to flee; the other dog stayed put.
Troyer said that deputies shot and killed the dog that stayed behind after it growled at them. Deputies found the wounded dog a few blocks away and killed it, too.
“They were vicious dogs,” Troyer said. “We put them both down.”
Charles and Nga Woodhead met when he was stationed with the Air Force in South Vietnam during the war.
He said Wednesday
would have been their 42nd wedding anniversary.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.