A family in Willow Spring, North Carolina, experienced a devastating tragedy on Tuesday night.
The scene is one many can relate to: Dad is home with a baby and the family dogs, and he steps outside for a moment to move a sprinkler.
The dogs, a male and female Rottweiler, had no known incidents or issues, authorities told WTVD-TV. One neighbor even said they were known to be very protective of the baby, a 10-month-old.
After moving the sprinkler, the dad, Scott Winberry — a law enforcement officer — paused to chat with a neighbor when he heard something going on inside.
What he found when he got back in the house was heartbreaking.
The dogs had attacked the baby girl, Malia Scott Winberry, authorities said. She was unresponsive when her father found her, and even though he called for help immediately, neither he nor sheriff’s deputies nor EMS personnel could revive Malia, and she was pronounced dead at the scene at about 8 p.m.
“The father had left the small child inside the residence unattended for only a couple of minutes,” Johnston County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Danny Johnson told WTVD. “He heard a lot of commotion in the house, went back inside and found the baby unresponsive.”
“It appears that the family’s dogs attacked the child, and that is the reason for its death. It’s a bad scene any time that a young child like that passes, or any child. It’s very hard on us all because we all have children.”
Capt. Jeff Caldwell, of the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement that “investigators arrived on scene and quickly determined this incident was a tragic accident,” according to WECT-TV.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Scott Winberry and Bianca Patel for the tragic loss of their 10-month-old daughter, Malia Scott Winberry,” Caldwell said.
The dogs were seized by animal control and await their fate. Winberry and Patel can choose to take the dogs back or have them euthanized, according to WTVD.
Both dogs have been deemed dangerous.
“It’s very solemn around here this morning,” Johnston County Animal Control Director Chad Massengill told WRAL-TV. “I mean, it’s very difficult to deal with.”
A memorial fund has been started for Malia and has raised over $13,000.
“Bianca, Scott, and their families are now left with unexpected expenses to lay their baby to rest,” reads the Memorial Page for Malia Scott Winberry, which was started by organizer Stephanie Driver. “I would love for us to raise enough money that money will be the last thing they have to worry about. I want her to have the memorial and services she deserves.”