CALDWELL COUNTY, NC (WBTV ) - Caldwell County Sheriff's Investigators are trying to piece together what happened Sunday night in the Kings Creek area after an 18-month-old boy was killed by his grandfather's pet Rottweiller.
"It's just an unspeakable tragedy," said Greg Greene of Caldwell County Animal Control. Investigators, he said, still are not sure of the circumstances surrounding the incident.
The dog was on a chain and while it does not appear aggressive now at the Animal Shelter, Greene says a dog of that size can easily harm a toddler even while playing.
Eighteen-month-old Nyhiem Wilfong was found bloody and covered in mud with the dog laying on top of him just after 7 p.m. Sunday.
His grandfather, Ervin Patterson, was taking a nap inside his house and the boy's great-grandmother was in the kitchen. Nyhiem and his five-year-old brother were outside playing.
They were last seem by the grandfather near the swing set. Not long after that, Patterson says the five-year-old came running in the house and went to the bed where he was and started screaming.
"He said the dog's got Nyheim, he's got the baby!" Patterson says he immediately went out to find the boy and that's when he saw the dog on top of Nyhiem. The toddler was not breathing.
"We tried to wash him and bring him back," said Patterson, "But we couldn't do nothing else for him." Medics arrived within minutes and Patterson thinks they got the child breathing again, but by the time they had him at the hospital it was too late.
"It was just a an accident," said Patterson, "A tragic accident."
He's only had the dog, named Coby, just a few weeks. Patterson doesn't believe the dog was mean or aggressive. "He's just big and playful."
Authorities say they are not sure just yet what happened. "The dog could just have been playing with the boy," said Greene, "But you have a one year old and a 110 pound dog and you know it don't take a whole lot for him to injure that child."
The dog was being housed at the Animal Shelter before Patterson signed him over to Animal Control Tuesday, and the animal was euthanized.
Investigators hope to know more in the next few days including why no one was directly watching the one and five-year-old boys.
The Department of Social Services is also involved in the investigation. Findings will be turned over to the District Attorney's office. Officials there will decide what, if any charges will be filed.
Patterson says it doesn't matter what's to come. What happened Sunday night will always be in his heart. "I will never forget it as long as I live."