The uncle of a toddler who was mauled to death by dogs in Southern California this week pleaded not guilty to child cruelty charges Wednesday.
The boy, 2-year-old Samuel Eli Zamudio of Rialto, died Monday after being attacked by dogs while at his grandmother's home in Colton, Calif.
Samuel's grandmother, Eustulia Zamudio, 42, and his uncle, Marco Zamudio, 23, were booked Tuesday morning on suspicion of child endangerment leading to death. The San Bernardino County District Attorney dropped charges against Eustulia on Wednesday because she was not home at the time of the mauling.
"It's painful like you couldn't imagine," Eustulia told NBC4. "It's an accident we wouldn't wish on anyone."
The boy was attacked when he leaned out a window of the home and was then dragged across the backyard. His grandmother, who owns the home, discovered him later.
Marco was at the home with Samuel and was in charge of watching over him, prosecutors contend.
Family members told NBC4 the death was merely an unfortunate accident, claiming that Marco fell asleep after working all night.
"There shouldn't be charges," said Adan Zamudio, Marco's brother. "It's bad enough that we're trying to deal with the grief as is."
A family friend and neighbor on Monday told NBC4 Samuel turned 2 years old in April. She joined family members in a search for the boy after he went missing at about 5 p.m. Monday.
About 30 minutes later, Erica Vega said she heard screams coming from the family's backyard. The grandmother had found Samuel's body with bite wounds to his head and neck.
Animal Control officers took custody of five pit bull mixes at the scene of the attack. It was not immediately clear how many of the dogs were involved.