Pit bull owner faces charges in Makayla Woodard’s death
Two weeks after his pit bulls mauled a 5-year-old neighbor, 23-year-old Michael Gordon was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Gordon turned himself in to Waxhaw police Wednesday afternoon. He later posted $20,000 bond and was released, according to Union County Sheriff’s Office officials.
On Jan. 5, Daisy and her male companion, Rebel, attacked and killed Makayla Woodard, 5, when she walked out of her house at 324 Rehobeth Road to play with her own dogs. The pit bulls also seriously injured Makayla’s grandmother, Nancy Presson, 67, when she tried to rescue the girl, forcing Waxhaw police officers to shoot the dogs.
Neighbors told Union County Weekly weeks ago that they had seen a man and woman in their 20s standing in Gordon’s yard yelling and cursing the day before the attack, as they appeared to search for one or both of their dogs.
Gordon’s case is scheduled to be heard Feb. 17 in Union County District Court. He had just returned from prison in May, serving 10 months for felony breaking-and-entering charges stemming from a series of incidents in 2006.
Looking toward the future
Since the attack, animal-rights supporters have suggested that a countywide leash law might help prevent such an incident in the future. Waxhaw does have a leash law, but no Animal Control officer to enforce it. The town has decided to fill that position again.
Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey, whose officers would have enforce a county leash law, doesn’t see how it would help. “Leash laws are like locks. They’re for honest people,” Cathey said. “People who don’t use them now won’t later. The owner simply needed to take responsibility.”
The county’s deputies do have the authority to enforce leash laws and other town ordinances, Cathey said, but with a department stretched thin by county budget cuts, he doesn’t have the available resources.
“We don’t enforce leash laws because we don’t have the manpower,” Cathey said. “If we tried to enforce leash laws, we’d have our officers tied up there all the time, responding to calls. We choose to let the local police, who have authority in their town, handle that.”
It’s similar to how the sheriff’s office handles other town ordinances, Cathey said.
“Lake Park has parking ordinances, (and) the contract officers hired by Indian Trail handle that,” Cathey said. “Our zone officers don’t because then we’re taking them away from protecting the rest of the county.”
Waxhaw rejects memorial tree
On Tuesday night, the Waxhaw town council rejected planting a memorial tree for Woodard.
Council member Erin Kirkpatrick proposed the town spend $300 to dedicate a plaque to Makayla on one of the trees the town routinely plants downtown. That $300 would cover the cost of the tree, the plaque and general upkeep. “I realize there is emotion (in this decision),” Kirkpatrick said. “I know (the situation) kicked me in the gut. The community is hurting.”
In addition to Woodard, Kirkpatrick had proposed memorial trees for former Animal Control officer Mike Irby, police officer Richard Belk and Waxhaw residents Roscoe Hood and Alice Neal.
But other council members questioned if a Woodard memorial would set a precedent.
“I agree what happened to that little girl was tragic, but what we’ve got here are folks who passed away,” Mayor Pro Tem Martin Lane said. “Folks pass away in this town every day. I hope I don’t sound heartless, but we just can’t go around spending taxpayer dollars every time someone passes away.”
Why not include Bill Pease or Bob Kennedy, two other Waxhaw residents who died in the past year, on the list, Lane asked.
“Where are you going to draw the line (about memorials)?” Commissioner Brett Diller asked. “Is it officers and commissioners? I’m torn on this. There’s no definite line, (and) there’s no way to draw a line.”
Council members ended up taking no action on the request.