Mother of dogs' victim is charged

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An Augusta mother whose 2-year-old son was mauled by dogs will remain in the Richmond County jail without bond after her arrest on a charge of cruelty to children.

Jessica Lynn Chavous, the boy's mother, was taken into custody at the hospital.  Special
Special
Jessica Lynn Chavous, the boy's mother, was taken into custody at the hospital.

Jessica Lynn Chavous, 24, was arrested about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital, Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Scott Peebles said.

Richmond County Sheriff's Office, Augusta Animal Services and the Department of Family and Children Services began an investigation after her son, Damien Chavous, was attacked by four dogs in a fenced yard next door to her grandparents' home in the 3600 block of Belair Road Friday night.

Police have said they don't plan to charge the owner of the dogs, Shirley Barnes, in connection with Friday's incident. However, Augusta Animal Services Director Diane Downs said her office is still investigating.

Ms. Downs said Tuesday that some of the dogs have mange and that she has asked Ms. Barnes to come to their office today to show proof of vaccination and other veterinary records on the dogs.

Police discovered in their investigation that just a week before the mauling, Damien was nearly hit by a passing motorist in front of the same Belair Road home, according to a statement released by Lt. Peebles. The motorist, who called the sheriff's office, said no adults were outside and they were not aware that the toddler was outside.

Officers were also told by family members that Ms. Chavous was aware that her 2-year-old could open the gated deck where he was left unattended Friday night before the dog attack. She also knew that the child could climb the gate and had done so many times, according to witnesses.

Bill Swint, Ms. Chavous' grandfather, said her 2-month-old child is now being cared for by a friend and the family is no longer allowed to visit Damien at MCG. A spokeswoman for DFCS would only confirm that an investigation was ongoing.

"It's getting awfully rough now," Mr. Swint said. "My wife is pretty worried about the baby, but they won't let any of us see him now."

As of Tuesday morning, Damien was continuing to improve, Mr. Swint said. He remains in critical condition at MCG.

Ms. Barnes used the Belair Road house as a rescue mission for abandoned pets called Heart of Animals, but she is not licensed as an animal rescuer in Georgia, Ms. Downs said.

The dogs will remain at the animal shelter, Ms. Downs said. Ms. Barnes could face charges of animal cruelty if she cannot show that the dogs had proper rabies vaccinations.

Mr. Swint said he hopes the family will soon be able to visit Damien.

"We're all shook up over this," he said. "We just want to see about the baby."

Staff Writer Preston Sparks contributed to this article.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (35)

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HillGuy
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HillGuy 07/16/09 - 12:58 am
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bm4... that's an interesting

bm4... that's an interesting sidenote. I'm surprised though it wasn't a meth charge that landed him in jail.

bm4
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bm4 07/16/09 - 09:03 am
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I totally agree with

I totally agree with HillGuy...white trash environment! There are so many loving and deserving people out there whom would LOVE to have a child and are not able due to medical reasons. It would be so nice for these types of children to have one of these super loving homes!!

emergencyfan
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emergencyfan 07/16/09 - 11:16 am
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Deadeye, (1) pretty sure a

Deadeye, (1) pretty sure a hole under the fence big enough to pull a 2-year old through would have been noticed by someone. (2) your first link is from a story published in 1999, your second link goes nowhere so as far as I can see, you're crucifying this woman today for something she apparently did 10 years ago. (3) You're an idiot if you don't think a 2-year old can climb a 4' chain link fence. At two-years-old, my friend's daredevil son climbed an 8' bookcase, jumped off the top of it, bloodied his lip, and was ready to try it again if she hadn't stopped him. Some kids just have an adventurous spirit and a high pain threshold. Add an unattentive parent to that mix and you've got a tragedy waiting to happen.

happythoughts
25
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happythoughts 07/17/09 - 08:14 pm
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that looks like a man's shirt

that looks like a man's shirt

ozarkalien
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ozarkalien 11/23/10 - 05:29 pm
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It seems like there is more

It seems like there is more to this story. How many of you that have raised children have one time or another have lost track of your kid for just a few mins. If you say never you are lying. I'm not saying she is a great mom but to take away her kids? The woman with the dogs why is she allowed to have a rescue mission for abandoned pets within a neighborhood . It seems she is endangering the area's families and children with animals. It doesn't appear she has the proper enclosure to secure the animals. I wouldn't want a bunch of stray dogs to be allowed in a residential area without proper fencing and the insurance that these dogs have been vaccinated and aren't a danger to the kids in the area. Before all of you hang this women maybe you ought to set back and think about all the causes that lead to this incident.

ozarkalien
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ozarkalien 11/23/10 - 06:58 pm
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I can't believe you have to

I can't believe you have to add remarks like a meth lab, Really?

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