UPDATE 05/17/08: Five months after reporting this story, Camp Lejeune suffered a fatal attack by a pit bull. Gaston said hearing about the death brought her back to her daughter's attack. "I can't believe it is happening again," she said. Gaston continues to pursue her lawsuit against the Corps.
12/10/07: Victim's Family Sues Marine Corps
Camp Lejeune, NC - Amy Gaston didn’t think twice about letting her 9-year-old daughter pedal her bicycle down the road to a friend’s house. After all, the family lived in base housing, well within the confines of Camp Lejeune. It’s a place where youngsters live without fear of drug dealers or predators, and people generally look out for each other. But one afternoon in 2005 changed Gaston’s perception of base housing forever -- and changed her family’s life.
Her daughter Ashely had stopped at a friend’s house to see if he could come out and play. Before she reached the door, the family’s rottweiler escaped its poorly secured fence, grabbed Ashley’s head in its powerful jaws and began to attack. Two-and-a-half years later, Ashley still has nightmares. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She still faces three to four more rounds of cosmetic surgery. Doctors do not believe she is mentally ready for them.
Amy Gaston holds the dog’s owner and the Corps responsible. She’s seeking $5 million in damages and is hoping to send a message so that what happened to her daughter will not happen to other children living on base. Her attorney, David Sheldon, agrees. He believes the government is responsible. Regulations require that the base housing office approve fencing for all domestic animals, he said, adding that they failed to inspect the fence.
Amy Gaston and her husband separated after the attack; she and her three children moved to Upper Marlboro, Md., where the lawsuit was filed in U.S. district court. The government filed a motion to dismiss the case in September 2007, arguing that, under a North Carolina law, the government can’t be held liable for an alleged failure to enforce statutory regulations. The motion also states that the government did not know of aggressive tendencies in the dog.
Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland said, "The North Carolina law provides that you can’t sue the government for damages based on a claim that the government failed to enforce a regulation. For us, our obligation is to raise any available legal defense on behalf of the United States. In this case, we believe that there’s a legal defense that bars this claim against the United States."
05/17/08: 2008 Fatality: Julian Slack's Death Brings Back Bad Memories
05/15/08: 2008 Fatality: Child Dies In Pit Bull Attack At Camp Lejeune