Miss. 6-Year-Old's Calf 'Shredded' After Dog Mauling — and Police Say Owner Illegally Got Attack Animals Back

Now, Liam Martinez, 6, can barely get around on a walker, according to his mother, who tells PEOPLE he is undergoing surgeries to "get him walking again"

<p>Devyn Phillips</p> Liam Martinez, 6, recovering after the April 18 dog attack.

Devyn Phillips

Liam Martinez, 6, recovering after the April 18 dog attack.
  • Liam Martinez, 6, was attacked in his Wiggins, Miss., backyard by a neighbor's pitbull-mix dogs on April 18

  • Five of Tamara Melom's dogs were previously involved in multiple other attacks in Mobile, Ala., leading to a court order for their removal from their owner, who allegedly illegally bought them back through third parties on Facebook, she said in court Wednesday, May 1

  • Melom is not criminally charged in the attack that has temporarily impaired Liam’s ability to walk, but she has been fined approximately $3,000 for violating a county ordinance regarding vicious dogs

The Mississippi mother had just gotten home when she heard “a death scream” from her backyard.

Running toward the sound, Devyn Phillips wrote in a Facebook post that she saw three pitbull-mix dogs “shaking” her 6-year-old son, Liam Martinez, and “eating him alive.”

Phillips’s partner, Aries Fairley, waded into the fray and “snatched our Liam up from these dogs,” the mother wrote, adding that when grabbing hold of her son, her “fingers went inside of his leg.”

“This was a full on attack, and the dogs were not going to stop,” Phillips wrote of the April 18 incident in Wiggins, Miss. “They were eating my son.”

<p>Devyn Phillips</p> Liam's leg is in a cast following the attack last month.

Devyn Phillips

Liam's leg is in a cast following the attack last month.

Liam Martinez, 6, was airlifted to a hospital in Mobile, Ala., where, per a GoFundMe page set up to help cover medical expenses, doctors conducted surgery but were unable to repair his “completely shredded” right calf muscle.

Friends of the family said on GoFundMe that Liam had endured “multiple” injuries down to the bone, causing severe nerve damage.

“This is a tragedy that should have never happened,” Stone County Chief Deputy Sheriff Steve Taylor tells PEOPLE in an interview.

Taylor says his investigators later learned that Tamatha Melom, the owner of the dogs – which had a history of attacks – had allegedly illegally reunited with her canines the year prior.

Three previous attacks – including one on an elderly individual who had gotten 63 stitches – led a Mobile, Ala. judge to take away four of her dogs by court order, Melom allegedly admitted in Stone County Justice Court, Wednesday, May 1, in proceedings recounted by Taylor to PEOPLE.

The dogs were slated to be sent to a rescue group in February 2023, but according to Taylor, Melom allegedly testified she paid friends and others on Facebook to buy the dogs back, crossing state lines into Mississippi and taking up residence with her dogs, across the street from a local Head Start program for children.

Taylor’s investigators ultimately seized five of Melom’s dogs – some of them involved in Liam’s attack and all previously tagged with microchips – involved in the Mobile attacks.

<p>Devyn Phillips</p> Liam on a walker in the hospital after the April 18 attack.

Devyn Phillips

Liam on a walker in the hospital after the April 18 attack.

In court, Melom said she believed her dogs were innocent and did not apologize to the family, Taylor tells PEOPLE. Melom further alleged at the hearing that Mobile’s animal control had fabricated the earlier attacks.

Taylor says Melom’s five attack dogs are slated to be euthanized by lethal injection by a veterinarian in early June. She has 30 days to appeal.

Melom – who does not face criminal charges and represented herself in court – was ordered to pay some $3,000 in fines for five violations of a county vicious dog ordinance, Taylor confirms to PEOPLE.

Taylor tells PEOPLE that Melum remains in possession of several other dogs, including two small dogs with a litter of puppies, as well as a larger dog “but it does not seem vicious.”

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Meanwhile, in an updated statement to PEOPLE, also posted to GoFundMe earlier this month, Phillips says that Liam is “a long ways” from being able to walk again, although with additional surgery and physical therapy, they will slowly “rebuild his strength and get him walking again” but that “he may never be able to play sports in the future.”

Phillips says her son will miss the rest of kindergarten to continue his recovery. For now, he struggles to use a walker.

Liam's next surgery – scheduled for Wednesday, May 8 – should “remove any non viable dead skin/tissue and to remove the current sutures” she says, adding: “Then they will be closing the rest of his leg.”

Phillips said on Facebook that doctors told her that if Liam had not been rescued as quickly as he was, Liam would likely not be alive.

“Liam has a long road of recovery but he is here, he is stronger than I could have ever imagined,” she added, “and he is overcoming all the obstacles that have been thrown his way.”

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