A 21-month-old baby girl, Monica Renee Laminack, was mauled to death by the family’s seven Pit Bulls in the backyard of a modest two-story home in Ellabell, Georgia, while her 18-year-old mother reportedly went to the store on Wednesday, March 27, reports WISTV News.
Five adults were inside the house when the child crawled through the doggie door and into the backyard of her grandparents’ home on Elm Drive, where the tragic attack occurred, Bryan County Sheriff's Office states. Ellabell is a small town about 30 miles west of Savannah.
The sheriff told the Associated Press that four generations of the same family shared the home, including the child’s 18-year-old mother, Summer Laminack, her grandparents and two uncles who are still young boys.
The girl’s grandmother, Michelle McIntyre, sat on the tailgate of a pickup, crying, outside the home Thursday. Summer Laminack sat silently looking down, according to the Washington Post. A relative said that the girl is in shock.
Deputies say the deadly mauling occurred about 6:00 p.m. and probably lasted for about 1-1/2 hours. They found the little girl’s shoes, diaper and ripped clothing scattered all across the fenced-in yard. Sheriff Smith said, “They had dragged the child all over the yard…They tore her clothes all up.”
The little girl’s body was cold by the time authorities arrived and they report that she had bites all over her body. She would have turned two-years-old on June 1—instead, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith said that Monica’s grandmother was asleep upstairs and a 12-year-old boy was supposed to be watching her. Smith said the family stated Monica frequently used the doggie door as a means to get in and out of the house, according to Live5 News.
The grandmother told officers that when she woke up, she heard the dogs barking. She looked out her window and yelled "they are killing Monica!"
When Emergency Medical Services arrived, they immediately called the coroner, according to reports, because they could immediately tell the child had been dead for a while. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday, Sheriff Smith said, and it is expected that charges will be filed.
Officials have suggested that the 18-year-old mother could be charged with second-degree child cruelty, according to WISTV, because she is an adult and responsible for the safety of her child. However, other adults in the home may also be charged in the toddler’s death, according to the sheriff.
All of the pit bulls were euthanized by injection at the scene by animal control officers upon the order of the sheriff. The sheriff told reporters “he takes full responsibility for the dogs being put down.”
The family had a total of nine dogs--a Beagle and Irish setter were not destroyed because only the Pit Bulls—a mother and six puppies from her last litter about 16 months ago--were involved in the attack.
According to the Washington Post, the dogs appeared to be well fed and cared for. Baby Monica had reportedly grown up with all the dogs and had played with them all her life. There was no identifiable cause of the attack on her on Wednesday, officials said. The child had been playing with the dogs earlier in the day, they said.
Relatives said that the Pit Bulls that fatally mauled the child were family pets — the doggie doors let them come in and out of the house as they pleased and Monica regularly followed them in. The family told deputies the dogs had never attacked a person. The Sheriff said relatives insisted the toddler would play with the dogs and even “use them as pillows while watching TV.”
Smith said investigators found no signs the dogs were being used for fighting, the Washington Post reported.
The family said there has never been an issue with the dogs before and they never felt the child was in danger with them, although they admitted at least one of the dogs killed a cat one time.
Christy Lamica, a neighbor across the street, told the AP she doesn’t know the family of the fatally mauled toddler but she said. “Their dogs don’t get out, and we never hear anything from them. I’m home all day, and I’ve never had issues.”