LAKE PLACID, Fla. (FOX 13) - Investigators in Highlands County have confirmed that a Lake Placid man, found dead on Thursday, was bitten by dogs more than 100 times in a deadly attack.
It was just before noon Melvin Olds Jr. was found dead in a wooded area off Cochran Drive in the Highway Park neighborhood south of Lake Placid. On-scene investigators initially believed an animal attack was the 45-year-old's cause of death; Friday, an autopsy confirmed that conclusion.
The father of five was taking a shortcut, walking along a wooded path on his way to a nearby convenience store in the Highway Park area when the attack happened before noon on the Fourth of July.
His girlfriend Jannell Ward explained that on that morning, Olds planned to make one of their favorite dishes to bring to a family gathering for Independence Day.
She began to worry when time was running short, and he still was nowhere to be found.
"I am calling him and he is not answering," she said. "And I am like, it's not like him not to answer the phone. He always calls me back."
Word spread through the neighborhood about a man's body being found on the path. She went there, and from a distance, knew it was him from the clothes he was wearing.
She said a pack of dogs in the neighborhood has caused problems in the past. One day she came home to find her Chihuahua with bite marks dead on the porch.
One of her neighbors told FOX 13 that the pack also attacked her dog.
"My son had to get a stick and beat them off," Shan Williams explained.
Deputies say six dogs have been captured in the area and their bite size matches with the wounds on Olds' body, but that alone is not enough to say that they were the animals involved. DNA from those dogs will be compared to DNA collected from the wounds to see if a positive connection can be made.
"While we may have the dogs that were responsible for this horrible tragedy, we won't know for sure for a while," Sheriff Paul Blackman said. "I want to encourage residents of Highway Park and the surrounding area to be on the lookout for any loose dogs, especially those that seem aggressive. We don't want anyone else to be injured."
Anyone who sees loose dogs in the area should not approach them, deputies said. Instead, you are asked to contact the Highlands County Sheriff's Office at 863-402-7200.