Pit bull owner sentenced for brutal mauling

Brianna Watkins Before & After the Attack
Brianna Watkins Before & After the Attack

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  A Columbus man admits his pet was behind an attack that has left a little girl mutilated.

Demetrius Miles pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor reckless conduct charge in state court Friday.

His pit bull, Debo, was put to sleep after it mauled 13-year-old Brianna Watkins, Miles' neighbor, a year ago.

It happened at the home where Brianna lives with her grandparents off of Buena Vista Road. Police say Debo got lose and made his way into her yard.

Brianna lost both of her ears and most of her scalp in the attack and her face is disfigured.

Her case was the first time Columbus Police used animal DNA testing in an investigation.

Afraid Brianna might pass away from her injuries, police found a specialized lab in Texas to help identify the dog that hurt her.

They took hair samples from the shirt that was torn off Brianna's body the night of the attack along with hair plucked from Debo and tell WTVM the results were a positive match.

Brianna started to heal and she also pointed to Debo as the dog that attacked her.

She has had six surgeries so far and is set to have another operation on her head in February. She still wears a hat to cover her wounds but she has recovered enough to go back to middle school.

Richard Hagler represents Brianna and her grandparents. He says he will be filing a civil lawsuit against Miles for damages in the "very near future."

Demetrius Miles was sentenced to 12 months probation, 240 hours of community service and 10 weekends in jail.

"We have disposed of Mister Miles' case this morning. It was a negotiated plea. Mister Miles is sincerely upset and sorry about everything that's occurred here. We hope nothing like this happens in the future and of course, the dog will not be a threat in the future," said Miles' attorney, William Kirby.

Muscogee County Solicitor General Ben Richardson says Brianna's scars are a prime example that the law on the books in Georgia needs to change when it comes to dog attacks.

"Brianna is an amazing, courageous young lady and we want to use this case as an example to teach our legislature that these types of injuries need to be a felony prosecution, not a misdemeanor prosecution. There needs to be more emphasis on dog owners if they're going to have these dangerous dogs and to take more precautions otherwise they're going to face felony prosecution," Richardson told WTVM outside of court Friday.

He says the Georgia Association of Solicitor Generals will be proposing the change to the legislature in January from a misdemeanor to felony offense.

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