A 7-year-old Oklahoma boy was mauled to death by a dog his family rescued just weeks earlier, authorities and relatives said.
James McNeelis was reported missing Wednesday from his Creek County home south of Kiefer after not returning home for dinner and not responding to calls from his family, KJRH reported.
James’ father, Michael, later found his son dead in the family’s backyard, where a Shetland sheepdog-corgi mix they had rescued three weeks earlier fatally attacked the boy, relatives told the station.
The boy’s family had taken in the dog as a stray and had not shown any signs of aggression prior to the deadly attack. The dog was being held at an animal control facility and James’ death appears to be a tragic accident, sheriff officials said in a statement last week. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“It doesn’t look like any foul play,” Creek County Sheriff Bret Bowling told KOCO. “Our preliminary indications or investigation [show] it’s some kind of animal.”
James was playing outside with his new dog just before the attack occurred, relatives told KOCO.
Neighbor Shannon Edison said she and her family were celebrating a birthday outside nearby when she heard a woman let out a blood-curdling scream.
“It was a very, very life-changing scream, if that makes sense,” Edison told KOTV. “We knew something was wrong. As a mother, you know that scream. If anybody’s ever heard that scream, you know that scream. Something was catastrophically wrong.”
Edison said she was gutted after later learning about what unfolded.
“It was gut-wrenching,” Edison continued. “No family should ever have to go through something like that. I just couldn’t believe it, honestly. It was something that was unfathomable.”
James’ father, Michael McNeelis, said on Facebook early Tuesday that the shattered family plans to leave the area after his son’s funeral.
“He was so full of life and light and he was going to change the world,” McNeelis wrote in another Facebook post Sunday. “And he still is. His light will change the world. We feel alone and lost without him and we’re doing all we can but it’s just hard. Everything just hurts without my little boy here.”