The two were attacked by up to 14 dogs as they walked near their home in Lexington, authorities concluded Monday.
“I’ve been down there before and they barely looked up,” said Jeannette Bridges, who lives on Elberton Road a few houses away from the Schweders’ home.
Bridges’ husband, Lanier, said the mixed-breed dogs “have been around for years. We never had a problem with them.” The dogs were still standing over the slain couple when the coroner arrived at the scene on Saturday.
At that point, the animals did not seem overtly threatening but were guarding the bodies as if they were prey, said James Matthews, coroner for Oglethorpe County.
“They were not aggressive whatsoever,” he said. “I guess that’s what makes the attack so hard to figure out.”
But an autopsy performed at the GBI Crime Lab concluded that the dogs were responsible for the deaths.
“There’s nothing to indicate foul play,” said Jim Fullington, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Athens office.
“The doctor is confident the deaths resulted from the dog bites.”
Sherry Schweder was out looking for one of her own six dogs when she was attacked. Her husband was killed after he went looking for his wife, Matthews said.
Their mutilated bodies were found by a pair of visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses about 12 hours after they went missing.
Matthews said he believed the couple died instantly.
“It was a vicious attack,” he said.
The dogs belong to a man who used to live in the area but was forced to move because of medical problems, neighbors said. A friend would take the former owner to the property to feed the dogs, they said.
Matthews said the dogs, rounded up Monday afternoon by animal control officers from a neighboring county, showed no signs of malnourishment or rabies and said Oglethorpe County had never received complaints about the dogs.
“I’ve been [coroner] for 28 years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone killed by dogs,” he said.
Fullington, the GBI agent, said he was not sure what would happen to the animals next.
Lexington is at the center of Oglethorpe County, about 20 miles east of Athens. The coroner noted that the county has no leash law.
Neighbors said they’ve spotted more and more coyotes around the area, but, like more domesticated canine breeds, they rarely attack humans.
Lothar Schweder taught German at UGA, and his wife worked as a humanities bibliographer at the university’s main library.
They were known as avid animal lovers and often walked their dogs on the same quiet road where they died.
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution