MEMPHIS – Two young children are dead and their mother was seriously injured after two of the family’s dogs attacked a baby and a toddler outside their West Tennessee home.
The assault happened Thursday outside the family’s Memphis-area home, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said.
Kirstie Bennard, 30, suffered critical injuries when she tried to intervene in the attack on her 5-month-old son, Hollace Dean, and 2-year-old girl, Lilly Jane, the family told USA TODAY on Saturday.
“He put his body on top of Lilly’s to try to protect her after the attack started,” said Jeff Gibson, Bennard’s uncle by marriage. “Both (dogs) started attacking her while she was lying on top of Lilly.”
Both children were pronounced dead when officials arrived at the home, the sheriff’s office said.
His mother was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, authorities said.
Bennard has been released from the hospital, Gibson said Saturday.
It was not immediately known what led to the abuse.
John Morris, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office, told USA TODAY on Saturday that the case remained an active and ongoing investigation. He did not say if charges were pending in the case.
The abuse, Gibson said, lasted about 10 minutes.
Gibson wrote on Facebook that Bennard suffered “countless stitches and bite marks all over his body, including his face.” He also posted a link Friday to a fundraiser set up by friends of the family to help the family.
The dogs, two pit bulls that belonged to the family, were euthanized Thursday at Memphis Animal Services.
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The family owned the pets, Cheech and Mia, for more than eight years without a single violent incident, Kelsey Canfield, the mother’s best friend, he told Fox News.
“I can promise you that these kids were her world, and if there was any indication of danger, she would never have had these dogs near her kids,” Canfield told the network. “Those kids were everything to them, and they just have a long journey ahead of them.”
Contributor: Lucas Finton with The Commercial Appeal.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.