Autopsy: Pit bull mauled boy to death (video)

Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor points out the area of investigation in the Kylar Johnson case. He spoke during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

A pit bull mauled 4-year-old Kylar Johnson to death, a preliminary autopsy showed Tuesday.

The death also was ruled accidental, although the investigation remains open. A final ruling could take more than a month.

Kylar was reported as missing to the Victoria County Sheriff's Office at 8:07 p.m. Sunday. After a host of friends, neighbors, volunteers and law enforcement officers, including K-9 units, searched through the night, Kylar was found dead 14 hours later in the backyard of a home in the 300 block of Village Lane.

The home sits at the front of the lot facing a swing set, child's jungle gym and picnic table. Ten large dogs are restrained on 10-foot chains toward the back of the property with individual shelters for each dog, Victoria Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said during a news conference Tuesday.

A complete investigation by the Travis County Medical Examiner's office and a veterinarian are still in progress. However, upon investigating the crime scene, authorities have determined only one of the 10 dogs chained behind the Village Lane home was involved in the attack.

The dog thought to be responsible for the attack is currently isolated, O'Connor said. After the medical examiner and vet are through with their investigation, the dog will be put down, he added.

The time of death was not released by the sheriff's office because of the ongoing investigation. Investigators are trying to determine how the boy managed to get a quarter-mile from his home and into the yard with the dogs.

While many theories continue to circulate concerning contributing factors to Kylar going missing, the sheriff encouraged people to contact the sheriff's office if they have firsthand knowledge of Sunday's events and are willing to give a sworn statement.

"There are conspiracy theories," O'Connor said. "People will have opinions across the land, and we will continue to try to get answers."

The sheriff said he could not rule out the potential of charges being filed against the boy's father, the dog's owners, or anyone else who might have contributed to Kylar's death.

O'Connor would not say who else was home when the boy disappeared, but said the father had custody of the boy. The mother later came to the scene to help with the search.

Kylar's home in the 1100 block of Old Goliad Road was the location of an accidental shooting death at a birthday party on May 13. Kylar's father, Michael Cole Johnson, 28, and his brother Matthew Dane Johnson, 25, were arrested for and charged with interfering with public duties, according to an arrest report.

The sheriff also said the department had received several reports of Kylar previously being seen walking unattended down Old Goliad Road. The boy was not known to wander in the direction where he was found, the sheriff said.

Neighbors at an adjacent property told the Advocate they generally saw Kylar outside playing in the yard under the supervision of his father.

"He was such a happy child, and he enjoyed playing outside," neighbor Connie Carona, 65, said.

Kylar enjoyed playing with the family dog, Carona said, and she often heard adults calling to him to come inside, or stay away from dangerous areas.

Carona and her family joined the search for Kylar just before 9 p.m. Sunday and continued searching until 2 a.m. When she heard Monday that Kylar was dead, she said, she could not stop crying.

"I don't know what happened that day," Carona said. "I tell my children you have to watch children closely. In the blink of an eye, you can look up, and they'll be gone."

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