Pit bull euthanized after attacking, killing owner's aunt - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Pit bull euthanized after attacking, killing owner's aunt

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The site of the attack The site of the attack

By Logan Smith - email

LEE COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A pit bull was euthanized in Lee County Thursday after it attacked and killed its owner's aunt, who had been caring for it while her nephew was out of town.

Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin said Ethel Baker Horton, 65, was killed off Stokes Bridge Road near the town of Lucknow while defending her 71-year-old husband, Jerry Horton, from the pit bull.

"You never think of somebody dying that horrible death like that, not someone as close as she is to us," said Brenda Gillespie, who had breakfast with the Hortons just two days ago. "It's just terrible."

The Hortons were dog-sitting their nephew's 10-year-old pit bull named Brutus while the nephew was out of town, Melvin said. The dog had been tied to a 15-foot chain attached to a stake in the ground in the backyard next door.

"I've always been scared of pit bulls, but they weren't scared of them," said Gillespie.

Around 11:40am Thursday, Jerry went out to feed six beagles and two huskies that were also being kept in the backyard. As Jerry was feeding the other dogs, Melvin said the pit bull pulled the chain loose and attacked Jerry.

Ethel ran out and tried to defend her husband with a plastic pipe, but Brutus turned on her and mauled her. Jerry called his son, who in turn called 911.

Ethel was killed in the attack, and Jerry was taken to Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville with non-life threatening injuries.

"I know this is gonna just be so hard on him if he makes it, because they were just as one," said Gillespie.

The pit bull has been taken away and euthanized, and is being tested for rabies. The as-yet-unidentified nephew has been notified of the incident, but it's unclear if he will face charges.

The sheriff's department says Brutus never acted out before and in fact, the Hortons were familiar with him since he was a puppy.

"If any stranger comes around he may bark or anything like that but any other family member that's close to the dog, anybody can go up to him," said Major Daniel Simon. "That's what the family told me."

"It's very devastating, because if you're expecting someone to pass away that's not as bad," said Gillespie. "But for something like this, it's kind of hard to comprehend."

Pit bull attacks are not exactly uncommon in the Midlands, even when they don't result in death. In April 2009, different dogs attacked a Florence woman and a Sumter 10-year-old within a month of each other. The previous fall, a pit bull attacked a woman and her puppy, injuring her and killing her dog.

But fatal attacks have also taken place in the Midlands, mainly on children. In 2007, a father was charged with involuntary manslaughter when his five pit bulls killed his 22-month-old child. Later that year, a two-year-old was attacked and killed after wandering into the fenced-in backyard.

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