Details grip courtroom in DeKalb dog attack

Eight-year-old Erin Ingram can be heard screaming  on the 911 call, begging a  neighbor to run her car over the two pitbulls mauling her in front of her Lithonia home.

“Please get them off of me! Please help me,” Erin is heard saying in the eight-minute tape. “They’re hurting me. Please run them over!”

Minutes later, a DeKalb Police officer is heard shooting one animal to stop the attack that left Erin so injured doctors had to amputate her left arm below the elbow .

One of the seven juror hearing the case in DeKalb State Court wiped away tears as Erin screams for her mom on the tape. Minutes later, a DeKalb Police officer is heard shooting one animal to stop the attack.

The dogs' owner, Twyann Vaughn, faces two counts each of reckless conduct, violation of county’s vicious dog ordinance and not having the dogs immunized for rabies. If convicted for the March 2010 attack, she could face up to five years in prison.

DeKalb Solicitor-General Sherry Boston said the emotional testimony, expected to continue throughout the week, will show that Vaughn knew the dogs, a Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire mix, were unpredictable and improperly restrained.

“The dogs were left unattended and unfenced in her front yard,” Boston said. “This terrible tragedy didn’t have to happen.”

Vaughn was moving from the south DeKalb neighborhood and had left the dogs in a broken crate while she carted belongings to the new neighborhood.

Vaughn 's attorney Gerald Griggs challenged witnesses who testified the dogs roamed the neighborhood, scaring and threatening residents. Erin and other children played with the dogs, he said. There was no way to predict the attack.

“The evidence is going to be hard to hear but in the end, the facts are going to show this was not a criminal act,” Griggs said. “This was, is, an unfortunate accident.”

Lisa Vining, who was showing a potential tenant a rental house in the neighborhood, had just spoken to Erin next door minutes before the dogs chased, toppled and dragged the girl into the street. Erin, then a third grader at Rock Chapel Elementary, was in her yard hoping to find friends to play basketball.

Vining called 911 as she was trying to scare off the dogs with her car. Another neighbor, Glenda Gaines-Poythress, jumped out of her car and tried to beat the dogs with an umbrella before one dog turned on her.

“When one would come after me, the other would go back more after her,” Gaines-Poythress said through tears. “They wouldn’t let her go.”

The dogs also refused to release Erin after Police Sgt. R.B. Peeler ran at the animals and hit them full force with a metal baton. After repeated blows, the animals did stop the attack but did not back up, instead growing and snapping at the officer.

When the larger dog lunged at Peeler, he shot it in the head, firing his gun for the first time in a 12-year career. The other animal ran back home. It was later recovered and euthanized.

Vaughn, heard on tape talking to investigators, said she didn’t care about the outcome of the dogs. She was shocked at the attack and had even called Erin’s father, trying to express her remorse.

“I feel sick about this little girl. It’s hurting my heart so much,” Vaughn said tearfully. "I don’t want to go to jail. She’s such a beautiful little girl. I don’t care what happens to the dogs. Just let that little girl be OK.”

Erin, now 10, has limited function in her remaining arm following the attack. Erin's sister Nisha Hudson, 18, said in testimony that the girl was playful and still trying to play basketball. Erin is expected to testify about the attack later this week.