Updated: 04/17/2013 12:35 PM KSTP.com
(AP) SAVANNAH, Ga. - A mother charged with child cruelty in the dog mauling death of her 21-month-old daughter was studying in her bedroom when the toddler slipped into their backyard and was attacked by the family’s seven dogs, her attorney said Wednesday.
Authorities on Tuesday charged Summer Laminack with second-degree cruelty to children, a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison, in the March 27 death of her daughter, Monica Renee Laminack.
"We feel and contend there is no question the death of this child was a tragic accident," attorney Tom Edenfield said by phone. "My client is an 18-year-old mother who loved her daughter and cared for her very much."
Bryan County sheriff’s investigators said the child slipped outside through a doggie door and was attacked by the seven pit bulls and pit bull mixes in the tiny town of Ellabell, about 30 miles west of Savannah. By the time the girl’s mother and other adults in the house noticed the dogs barking, the child was dead. Her clothing and diaper were found in shreds throughout the large fenced-in yard.
Edenfield said the toddler’s mother was in her bedroom studying for her GED diploma when the attack happened. The child’s grandmother was taking a nap, Sheriff Clyde Smith has said. And at least one other adult was home, but authorities haven’t said what that person was doing.
Four generations of the same family shared the home, including the child’s mother, grandparents and two uncles who are still young boys, the sheriff said.
The family let the dogs come in and out of the house and never considered them a threat, Edenfield said.
"The baby had been around the dogs her entire life," he said.
Laminack was released from jail on bond. Georgia law defines second-degree child cruelty as an act of criminal negligence that causes a child excessive pain, either physical or mental.
District Attorney Tom Durden said he plans to let a grand jury decide if the case should go to trial.
"It was a very horrific event that happened," Durden said. "With what the facts are right now, it’s something that should be presented to the grand jury for a decision."
Animal control officers euthanized all of the dogs. The sheriff said they appeared to be healthy and well-fed. Investigators have been unable to say what might have caused them to attack the toddler.
Though he called the girl’s death an accident, Laminack’s attorney stopped short of saying his client had committed no crimes. Edenfield said he’s still looking into the details of the case.
He said Laminack’s family has cooperated with authorities throughout their investigation. Meanwhile, the attorney said, the young mother is still grieving the death of her child.
"She is still, I think, suffering from the trauma of this event and will probably suffer for some time, if not her entire life," Edenfield said.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)