Photo: Johnson County Sheriff's Office
Bones found on the property covered with the trailer and shed were suspect. But the truth did not hit the sheriff's deputies until they had inspected a dog's droppings and discovered what looked like human hair and pieces of clothing. .
Freddie Mack had been eaten by his only companions in his rural home near Venus, Texas: his 18 dogs.
"Our initial reaction was a kind of disbelief because there was nothing left," said Adam King, sheriff of Johnson County, at the Washington Post.
It's amazing that animals eat human remains, Johnson said.
But the whole body, clothes and everything?
The senior investigators consulted by the sheriff's office had never heard of a pet consuming an entire person, he said. Final confirmation came on Tuesday when detectives learned that forensic scientists had identified the few remnants of MPs collected as Mack's.
It's not clear if the big mutinous dogs killed the 57-year-old or devoured him after the death of his "serious health problem," King said. The sheriff's office does not disclose Mack's medical information.
Mack drew the sheriff's attention for the first time in May when a family member said he had not heard from his loved ones for weeks. Mack kept for himself, said King, his only reliable human contact coming every two weeks when the family picked him up and took him to the store.
When asking about Mack, relatives had tried to search his property, but the dogs were aggressive and prevented them from entering, according to the sheriff's office. MPs also struggled to overtake animals. They managed to distract them and even examined with a drone when the dogs withheld them for another visit – but they could not locate Mack.
After declaring that Mack was missing, MPs interviewed family members and neighbors, asking them to find out about social media and contacting hospitals and prisons.
A breakthrough occurred on May 15 when a deputy found the first small bone during another search. More parts of bone followed. The authorities discovered dog feces with hair, more bone and tissue, which was the only outfit Mack was supposed to wear, the Sheriff's office said. Soon, MPs found one of two pairs of Mack's shoes in the area where the dogs had been written.
"It was another moment" Aha "for us," said King. "It's at this moment that we started to realize."
The implications were bloody but not unprecedented. A 2017 National Geographic article revealed dozens of pet cases eating their deceased owners, detailed in 20 years of forensic science journals. A 2015 study of more than 60 cases of dog mutilating dog corpses concluded that animals tended to go after the nose and mouth, and to a lesser extent the arms and hands.
Earlier this year, a South Carolina woman died after her two blends of boxers mistreated her in front of her mobile home – "eating her alive", as one witness said. 911.
But Mack's case is distinguished by the thoroughness with which the dogs ate it. Members of his family were informed of the findings of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office that the remains were Mack's, based on a genetic match of the family, the sheriff's office said.
As for the dogs, 13 were killed because of their aggression and more and more evidence of the assassination of their owner. Two had already been killed by other dogs.
The other three are still there. "They were friendly," said King.