'Living Tree' ceremony in Delhi to honor 17-month-old boy killed by pit bull last year

DELHI -- The Merced County sheriff's department will hold a living tree ceremony and dedication at 6 p.m. today at its Delhi substation in remembrance of Colton Smith, a 17-month-old boy killed last year by a pit bull.

Deputy Joey Cardenas will host the 30 to 45 minute ceremony. Family members and attendees will light a tree in honor of Colton and a plaque will be mounted, dedicating the tree to him. The tree will be lit every year.

The Delhi substation is located at the corner of Shanks Road and Schendel Avenue at the northeast corner of the Delhi Ed Park.

The boy was killed by the dog, which belonged to his babysitter's future in-laws, on Oct. 23, 2009.

Deputies responded to the scene after receiving a 911 call from the hysterical babysitter in the 9000 block of Donovans Way in Delhi. The phone went dead, and deputies responded to the home and saw blood on the doorstep. Meanwhile, a deputy made vehicle stop on the babysitter's car, because she was driving erratically.

She handed the injured child to the deputy, saying her 65-pound pit bull got hold of the child and dragged him around the yard by the throat.

She said the dog let go of the baby after she stabbed it with a fork. The boy was flown to Valley Children's Hospital in Madera, where he died.

No charges were ever filed. The dog was destroyed by Merced County Animal Control.

-- Victor A. Patton