LEE COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Four dogs attacked Amber Hornsby last month. She was in the hospital for weeks, recovering from severe wounds to her legs and back.
It seemed the worst was over. The 11-year-old was out of the hospital and her wounds were healing.
But now, working on a tip from a WIS News 10 viewer, authorities have found something shocking. Family caring for Amber hasn't heard from her mother, Mary-Ann, for more than a week, and money donated to a recovery fund for her daughter is missing.
Sheriff E.J. Melvin says, "The whole account is about empty now. I found out she's using the money to buy drugs."
Authorities say Hornsby - seen in a WIS News 10 interview last month - stole more than $3,000 from the fund, bought crack and went missing. Sheriff Melvin says, "She's a very sick lady, needs help - like anybody who can take something that belongs to her child who has been through enough already. Now her child has nothing. Think she's a very sick lady."
To get the drugs, authorities say the mother came to a credit union, withdrew the money, transferred it to her personal bank account, then bought drugs.
Keith Dubose says, "If she was going to do something good with the money that would've been fine, but no one knew what she was going to use the money for."
Dubose is a distant cousin. He's been caring for Amber and her three younger brothers - all under the age of 10 - in their mom's absence. To Amber, he says, the money doesn't even matter. "Basically, spirits are good. She's concerned with her mother right now and she wants to speak with her."
So would the sheriff, who says the department will pursue charges against Hornsby - that is, when and if they find her.
WIS News 10 tried calling Mary-Ann Hornsby at three different numbers she previously gave us, but we got no answer.
There is some good news. A separate fund set up by state representative Grady Brown through First Citizens bank is still intact. It has about $6,000 in it, donated solely for Amber.
Also, we learned Thursday morning that Safe Federal Credit Union says it will replace the donations taken from Amber Hornsby's recovery funds.
In addition to the funds being replaced, there's also another bit of uplifting news for Amber - a bike run will be held to benefit the 11-year-old next Saturday, October 27th. It starts at noon at "The Bar" on Highway 15 North in Bishopville.
Reported by Dan Tordjman