WAXHAW, N.C. -- A 23-year-old man has been charged with manslaughter after police say his two pit bulls attacked and killed a Union County girl.
Makayla Woodard was attacked on January 12 in her grandmother’s yard just off Rehobeth Road. According to investigators, the dogs bit Makayla in the neck.
The two dogs were owned by 23-year-old Michael Gordon. He turned himself in to police on Wednesday to face the manslaughter charge.
In a statement sent to NewsChannel 36, the family attorney for Makayla Woodard wrote, “Makayla's family had hoped for the more serious charge of second degree murder, but they are thankful that the state is moving forward to hold Gordon accountable for Makayla's death."
According to legal experts, a charge of second degree murder would require prosecutors to show that the defendant acted with reckless disregard or malice.
“This is an extraordinarily tragic case, but the legal bar that is set for second degree murder is extraordinarily high,” said Melissa Owen, a local attorney.
In the two weeks since Makayla’s death, several neighbors have told NewsChannel 36 that Gordon’s pit bulls were routinely allowed to roam the neighborhood.
According to Owen, that evidence may still not be enough to allow prosecutors to seek a higher charge.
“What you are looking for with malice is a recklessness that rises to the level of complete indifference to human life,” she said.
The sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter could allow Gordon, if convicted, to serve as little as 13 to 16 months. However, his criminal history could increase that time behind bars.
NewsChannel 36, working with our partners at the Charlotte Observer, conducted a thorough check of Gordon’s criminal past. Court records reveal a long list of charges – including assault, breaking and entering, larceny, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In the attack on January 12th, Makayla’s great-grandmother, Nancy Presson, was injured while trying to save her great-granddaughter. She is out of the hospital, but friends have said she has not returned to the home because she cannot deal with the reminder of what has happened.
A new website has been launched called “Help Institute Makayla’s Law.” The website asks people to sign a petition calling on North Carolina’s state legislature to create tighter restrictions on pit bull ownership. The site suggests that pit bull owners should have to register their dogs, take special classes, and perhaps even pay higher insurance rates. It also suggests greater power for law enforcement to seize dogs from owners who fail to follow the new restrictions.
As of 7 a.m. Thursday, the petition had 178 signatures. The goal is 5,000.
To sign the petition go to: