Nancy Cherryl Burgess-Dismuke had been wrestling with her dogs outside a mobile home in South Carolina when neighbors noticed something was wrong — the animals had turned on their owner, authorities said.
Authorities said two of the dogs, both boxer-mixes, became “aggressive” with Burgess-Dismuke and started biting her arms while she was playing with them Thursday in Greenville, not far from the North Carolina border. Neighbors helped pull her away from the dogs and call paramedics, who applied tourniquets to her wounds and rushed her to a nearby hospital, authorities said.
Amber Greer, who called 911, told the Greenville News that, “It went from looking like they were really playing to them really eating her alive.”
Burgess-Dismuke, 52, died of her injuries, police said.
It is unclear why the dogs mauled their owner.
Lt. Ryan Flood, a spokesman for the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement that deputies went to the home at about 1 p.m. Thursday after a neighbor called 911 to report that a woman was being attacked. When deputies arrived, “they discovered a neighbor was able to get the lady to safety and away from the dogs and observed an adult female suffering from severe injuries,” the statement read.
The Greenville News reported that one neighbor grabbed a blunt ax and another picked up a nearby car part and both started striking the dogs to give Burgess-Dismuke a chance to escape.
“When they finally got the dogs off of her, and finally got them to go, she threw her body over the fence,” Greer told the Greenville News.
Senior Deputy Coroner Kent Dill told The Washington Post that the woman, who had sustained “severe bite wounds” on both arms, was “alert” and “talking” with paramedics, but she went into cardiac arrest at the hospital.
Authorities are investigating the death; the autopsy results, including the cause and manner of death, are still pending.
After Thursday’s attack, Burgess-Dismuke’s neighbors told the Greenville News that, to them, the 52-year-old woman was “a little angel.”
“She was a very sweet lady. She’d get up every morning and turn the music on and that’s how we’d know she was up,” neighbor William Long told the newspaper. “I’m really going to miss her.”
Authorities said in a statement that Greenville County Animal Control “was able to secure the dogs,” but it is unclear what happened to them. The Post could not immediately reach animal control for comment.