Police said they are treating the fatal dog mauling of a 71-year-old Kansas City, Kan., woman as a homicide and are looking for the person who owned the dog.
Jimmie May McConnell was in her garden at about 11:30 a.m. on Thursday when a neighbor's dog jumped the fence and attacked her, police said.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, "the dog was still on the victim," Assistant Fire Chief Craig Duke said, and the rescuers had to hit the dog with an ax and a pole to get it off McConnell, officials said.
McConnell was taken to the University of Kansas Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Neighbors told ABC News affiliate KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo., that McConnell was so badly injured they hardly recognized her when she was pulled from the garden.
McConnell's son said his mother didn't have a fighting chance. "Besides run, she's defenseless," Chris McConnell said.
Though police have not yet confirmed the breed of the dog that attacked McConnell, neighbors described it as a pit bull.
A number of recent pit bill attacks have spurred new legislation across the country. A California woman, Maureen Faibish, is on trial in San Francisco, accused of felony child endangerment after the family's pit bulls mauled and killed her 12-year-old son.
Closing arguments in her trial concluded Thursday. If convicted, Faibish could face up to 10 years in prison.
In Kansas, pit bulls have been banned in Kansas City, Kan., and in Wyandotte County since 1990.
Residents said the dog that killed Jimmie May McConnell belonged to a neighbor, but police have not been able to locate that person.
Animal control officers tranquilized the dog and took the animal into custody. A second dog at the house was tranquilized and removed Thursday afternoon, KMBC-TV reported.
McConnell's son said his mother had been terrified of the neighbor's dogs for a while.
"She was so scared of the dogs. This has gone on for over a year. Those dogs have acted like they want to come through that fence," Chris McConnell told KMBC. "She worked in the garden every day, and they would growl and bark aggressively at her. She said, 'One day, one of those dogs are going to get me.' They finally got her."
This wasn't the first time that people in the neighborhood have had problems with this person's dogs, residents said, and according to a representative from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, animal control officers found two pit bulls at the home in 2004.
"It gets out once in a while and runs around. I was out here once, and it came up and I petted it," neighbor Preston Williams said.
"I think they need to get rid of all of them dogs. Don't need them killing human beings," said the Rev. John Boykin, a neighbor of McConnell's.
"I'm in shock, and I'm angry," said Gayle McConnell, the victim's niece. "It's been said that pit bulls can be dangerous, but people seem to believe it can't happen to them. It certainly can. I just wish people would heed the warning and do what they need to do."
Code enforcement officers deemed the neighbor's house uninhabitable because there are no utilities hooked up inside.
Friends of McConnell said she was well liked and had lived in the area a long time.
"She was a nice lady," Preston Williams said.
Gayle McConnell said her aunt was a great cook and an "awesome" singer, and her death is an enormous loss to the family.
Chris McConnell said he's relieved that his mother died doing what she loved, working in her garden.
"She would say, 'Don't weep for me,' she knew the Lord and she's in a better place," he said.
McConnell, who was a school crossing guard and was a foster parent for several years, leaves behind six children.
ABC News affiliate KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.