Melinda Haskell heard shouting. Then came what sounded like a baby crying. That was followed by shrieks for help.
When Haskell stepped outside her home on Wayside Lane, she saw the gruesome cause of all the commotion Thursday morning -- a pit bull had a 3-year-old girl's head in its mouth, and her baby-sitter was trying frantically to free her.
"She was like a doll in its mouth," Haskell said. "It was horrible."
The girl was severely mauled, and authorities intend to charge the owner of the dog, which had twice before been captured by animal-control officers running free in the area.
Haskell was getting ready for work when she heard the noise and went outside. She said she grabbed a stick lying nearby and tried to poke at the dog, while the girl's baby-sitter tried to pull the child from its jaws.
"I was hoping it would attack me," Haskell said. "I just wanted it to let go of the baby. The baby had already been through so much. The dog had already tasted that baby's blood."
A Port Royal police officer arrived.
He kicked until the dog released the toddler, but the pit bull went at her again.
The officer shot and killed the dog.
The girl, whose name was not released, was taken by ambulance to Beaufort Memorial Hospital with "very severe injuries," according to a Port Royal Police Department spokesperson.
Haskell, who works with the child's mother at the McDonalds on Parris Island and is the family's next-door neighbor, said the child is recovering.
"She's as good as she's going to be," said Haskell, who didn't know the child's name. "She lost an ear and she's going to have to undergo surgery on the top of her head. She's got bite marks on her face and on her legs, but she's alive.
"I try not to think about what could have been and focus on what happened."
Port Royal Police say the girl and her baby-sitterwere walking down Wayside Lane at about 7:50 a.m. when a 60- to 65-pound, brindle-colored pit bull emerged from a nearby dirt road and attacked the child, Staff Sgt. Andre Massey said.
"It wasn't going to stop attacking that girl," Massey said. "Had (the officer) not gotten there when he did, I don't think the child would have survived. It was pretty horrific."
Massey said Port Royal Police plan to charge the dog's owner, whose name was not released by authorities Thursday.
The dog was no stranger to Beaufort County Animal Control, according to Toni Lytton, the agency's director.
Lytton said county animal control officers have impounded the two-year-old dog twice in the past two months for running free.
"We've had the dog before and it never showed any signs of aggression," Lytton said. "I'm not sure what happened."
Both times, the pit bull's owner paid to reclaim the dog, which was not neutered and likely was used for breeding, Lytton said.
Officials from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control planned to pick up the dog's body Thursday and test the animal for rabies, Lytton said.