The shattered family of a little girl mauled to death by a pit bill on Long Island over the weekend mourned the loss of their ”princess” Monday — as cops weighed whether to bring criminal charges against the dog’s owner.
Mayra Castillo, the devastated mom of Amiyah Dunston of Baldwin, clutched her 9-year-old daughter’s denim jacket as she left her home with friends to pick out funeral clothes for the girl, family said.
“Amiyah Kayla was a phenomenal little girl who has touched many lives with her presence, smiles and laughs. We thank you for all your support and prayers,” said Brian Willis, Castillo’s fiancé who helped raise Amiyah, to reporters. “Just please let us mourn our terrible, tragic loss.”
Amiyah was visiting her biological father, Tramel Dunston, at 236 Holland Ave. when she was attacked by the pit bull named Kane at around 10:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Willis.
Dunston had been crashing at the Elmont home and was friends with the dog’s owner, Carlyle Arnold, Willis said.
Willis declined to answer questions about what may have led to the attack, saying, “We’re just trying to deal with the situation … all that other stuff is secondary.”
Family and friends posted photos online of Amiyah, some referring to the beautiful little girl as “our princess” and “Curly Sue” for her curly hair.
“She was a beautiful, smart and loving girl who touched the lives of all who knew her,” said a post on website Go Fund Me.
Ana Dailey, Amiyah’s heartbroken grandmother, tearfully said, “She played the violin in school. I loved her.”
Arnold, 29, was arrested at the scene on an unrelated charge, according to police.
Arnold, a former welder who is currently unemployed, has two other open cases in Nassau County for child endangerment from last year and criminal possession of stolen property from October, according to court records.
He was arraigned on the new criminal-contempt charge Monday morning in Nassau County court after allegedly violating an order of protection involving his girlfriend.
His bail was set at $10,000.
The Nassau County DA’s Office and police are investigating whether to bring criminal charges against Arnold in the fatal dog attack, sources said.
In April, Arnold uploaded a Facebook photo of himself and his muscular dog, Kane, engaged in a playful tug of war. Kane was wearing a heavy metal dog collar and chains. Arnold captioned the photo, “Beast!”
Amiyah had been playing with two little pals in the back yard when Arnold’s 2-year-old male pit bull charged at her, refusing to let go despite the efforts of several neighbors to free her.
“He was holding her somewhere on the side — I don’t know if it was the ears or the neck — and he was throwing her around like a rag doll,” said a next-door neighbor.
“The two [other] little girls ran down the street, screaming, ‘Help! Help! Help!’ I tried to take my broom and push the dog off through the fence. And the doctor up the block was trying to help, too. He threw a garbage can at the dog, but he wouldn’t let her go.’’
When cops arrived, the dog tried to attack them, and one of the responding officers fired three shots and killed him, authorities said.
Meanwhile, the mortally injured child was rushed to Franklin Hospital, but died a few hours later, with bites all over her body.
“It was a violent attack,” said Nassau County Detective Michael Bitsko at a press conference at the scene Sunday afternoon. “We don’t know why the pit bull attacked her.”
Arnold’s father, Carlyle Sr., said he was stunned that Kane would attack a child.
“I don’t know what to say, what to do,’’ the dad said. “This is crazy. I’m getting off of work, and now I’m in a horror scene.”
Arnold’s uncle, Anthony Jett — who lives in the house where the attack occurred but wasn’t home at the time — said Kane was a tough dog but usually interacted well with people.
“He was a good dog — that’s what I don’t understand,” Jett said. “He was a beast because he was a pit, but he was very gentle.”
He said he believes that something must have triggered Kane.
“Dogs can flip sometimes,” he said. “They don’t respect kids like they respect adults.”
Neighbor Vito Rendace added that Kane was an “OK’’ dog.
“I mean, if somebody came too close to the house, he would react,” he said. “He would start barking. But that was the extent of it. I never thought he would maul anybody.”
Amiyah’s family set up an account on the Web site Go Fund Me asking for donations for her funeral and for grief counseling for themselves.
So far, more than $6,700 has been raised toward the family’s total goal of $15,000.
Amiyah was also lovingly remembered by her aunt Asia Thomas, who called the girl “Mimi” and “Curly Sue,” for her beautiful hair.
“She was so smart and respectful,” Thomas told The Post. “She really was the perfect little girl.”
It’s unclear why the 2-year-old dog attacked Amiyah as she played with two pals in the back yard.
“I wasn’t there but I heard the dog had puppies, and they were playing with the puppies,” Thomas said.
“The dog was probably protecting the babies. This is just tragic.”
Update: As of Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 the family raised $23,032 of the $15,000 requested for funeral arrangements and potential grief counseling for the family. The GoFundMe campaign received 438 donations in one day and 3,600 shares on Facebook.