Jury: Woman guilty in DeKalb dog attack case

It took a DeKalb County State Court jury a little more than 90 minutes Friday evening to find Twyann Vaughn guilty of all charges in a dog mauling case that cost a young girl her arm.

Vaughn was convicted of two counts each of reckless conduct, violation of the county’s vicious dog ordinance and failure to have the dogs immunized for rabies, all misdemeanors.

Judge Dax Lopez sentenced her to 16 months in jail and 36 months on probation. Prosecutors had asked for four years in jail.

The maximum penalty was five years, a time that some critics decried as too short relative to the devastating injuries to then-8-year-old Erin Ingram in the March 2010 attack.

Some state lawmakers have already discussed elevating vicious dog attacks to felonies, which carry longer sentences. Vaughn requested a shorter sentence in her case in part so she could lobby for stricter animal control laws, something that Lopez agreed would be part of her sentence.

“What can I offer her from jail? What can I offer my son from jail,” Vaughn told the judge when asking for leniency. “All I want to do is help.”

Solicitor-General Sherry Boston, who handled the case personally because of her strong feelings over the attack, said she too would testify to state lawmakers if asked.

“Erin’s case has brought a lot of attention across Georgia, but it exists everywhere,” Boston said. “It’s obviously a case we don’t want to see happen again.”

Erin was not present at the verdict but was heard twice in court. A 911 call captured her screams for help during the attack. Erin, now 10, also took the stand herself, showing jurors her lost left arm, weakened right one and a lacing of scars.

“Twyann Vaughn’s dogs changed my life forever,” Erin wrote in a sentencing letter read in court Friday. “People stare at me. Kids always want to make fun of me.”

The panel of five women and one man asked three questions during deliberations. One of them, a request for a map of the neighborhood, was rejected because it had been written on by witnesses.

They also asked to again hear the vicious dog law and the recorded statement that Vaughn gave to investigators the day after the attack. In that tape, she cried and expressed shock her dogs would attack.

“It hurts me. I’m a mom, you know. And she’s such a pretty, beautiful little girl. It’s just so unfortunate,” Vaughn said on the tape.

Boston told jurors that she thought Vaughn’s remorse was genuine but that didn’t exclude her from not taking responsibility for her pets’ actions.

A DeKalb Police sergeant ended the attack by shooting one of the dogs, a 4-year-old Staffordshire terrier named Sandy. A younger dog, a 2-year-old dachshund-Shaffordshire mix named Goldie, was later captured and euthanized.

On Thursday, state Rep. Earnest “Coach” Williams said he would revise his 2005 attempt to ban vicious dogs in Georgia when the Legislature convenes next week.

Williams, D-Stone Mountain, is seeking to change a pending bill in the state House that calls for changing the animal cruelty laws and add language that makes it a felony for owners to be responsible when their dogs attacks.

“That would be good for all of Georgia,” he said.

Vaughn is scheduled to report to the court on Monday to begin serving her sentence. She will be in jail for her son's graduation from Lithonia High School this spring.