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Parent of child mauled by pitbulls files suit against owner, 15 unnamed defendants



The parent of a Columbia County boy who remains hospitalized with devastating injuries after being mauled by three pit bulls near his Grovetown home on Jan. 6 has filed suit in Superior Court.

Erika Gilstrap filed suit on behalf of her 11-year-old son Justin Gilstrap who was a victim in the brutal attack.

Justin Gilstrap was reportedly riding his bike when the dogs attacked him on the bike, eventually grabbing him and dragging him to a ditch.

A large part of Gilstrap’s scalp as well as an ear was torn off in the attack.

Dog owner Burt Thomas Baker III, 26, was arrested and charged with reckless conduct in the attack.

The dogs were later euthanized.

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The suit lists the dog’s owners, Burt Thomas Baker III and Brenda Johnson, as defendants in the case. The suit also names as many as 15 additional defendants, referred to as John/Jane Doe 1-15.

According to the lawsuit, “Defendants acted and or failed to act with the specific intent to cause harm to Justin Gilstrap. As a result thereof there is no limitation regarding the amount to be awarded as punitive damages.”

Adam King, the attorney for Gilstrap says that filing a notice with the court is the first step in the process.

“We are watching how the investigation goes to determine where we go and make sure we cover our bases,” King said.

According to local attorney Jeff Peil, who is not involved in the case, the use of the names John and Jane Doe is part of an “ante litem” procedure when the plaintiff’s attorney believes more people may be liable, but those people have yet to be identified.

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“If you have the suspicion there may be further defendants, you can use the court discovery process to determine who else might be at fault,” Peil said.

Peil added that including the John/Jane names does not necessarily indicate the plaintiff intends to sue the county or county employees.

However, county records show that code enforcement has been called to the property on Langston Drive numerous times over the past 20 years and have issued citations on “deplorable conditions” as well as animal welfare.

In 2014, code enforcement found animals tied in the yard by tether with no water and laying in feces-covered ground.

In January 2022, the dogs, which had been reported as running wild previously, were reported to animal control for attacking another neighborhood dog.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page set up for Justin Gilstrap has raised $261,155 for the boy’s medical bills. 

Scott Hudson is the senior reporter for The Augusta Press. Reach him at scott@theaugustapress.com 

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  1. I have not seen any information about what, if any, liability insurance Mr. Baker has. Is he a homeowner or renter ? Pit Bull Terriers are not all BAD. If socialized correctly, they can be an enjoyable dog. Proof was the big grey “puffball” that used to play with my Chipper at the Evans Dog Park. They are more “pack natured” than other breeds. Rappers and drug dealers stereotyped the breed many years ago, sadly. Baker should never be allowed to EVER own another dog heavier than five pounds, for the rest of his natural life.

  2. Genetics matter. Greyhounds are able to achieve astounding speed because of genetics not because of how they are “raised” or “socialized”. No amount of tender loving care will erase traits intentinly achieved through genterations of selective breeding. It’s why a mule will never compete in the Kenticky Derby, he aint built or bred for it. Owning an animal with a genetic predisposition to be aggresive and claiming “if you love them they wont hurt anyone” is choosing to be willfully ignorant of science and IMO completely irresponsible.

    • Genetics can play a part in any mammal’s temperament — even humans. In addition, socialization also plays a part, even in humans. I agree with your statement, but genetics is not the only factor. Pit Bull Terriers are more “pack oriented”, which in this case just exacerbated the problem. Baker even stated that his dogs liked to “chase” people on bicycles. He, as well as Columbia County had better get ready to write a check.

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