CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County man will spend six months to two years in a youth correctional facility after he was sentenced Thursday for attacking a woman and involving two pit bulls during an argument last September.

Zachary Atkinson, 21, of Cabin Creek was sentenced by Kanawha County Circuit Judge Carrie Webster after his guilty plea in February to unlawful wounding for the incident which occurred on Sept. 2, 2023 in Cabin Creek.

Due to the lesser charge and Atkinson being only 21, Webster said she wrestled with sentencing Atkinsons to the 1-5 max or the youth facility known as the Anthony Correctional Center in Greenbrier County. Atkinson was originally charged with malicious wounding which would have made an up to 15 year prison sentence.

Atkinson was hugged by supporters in
the courtroom Thursday. (Photo/MetroNews)

Webster said she made the decision to sentence Atkinson to the Anthony Center . She said she believes it would be the most effective for him to serve out his time, as well as give him the ability to garner some skills and acquire his GED.

“I feel to make any positive change in this case for you, would be to place you within a structured environment,” Webster said.

The day of the attack, Atkinson approached a 24-year-old woman while she was attempting to walk home from a friends’ house at the Hide-A-Way Trailer Park.

The woman claimed Atkinson beat her and ordered the two dogs to attack her while he was holding her down on the ground. Atkinson had previously claimed that the dogs did not attack her on his command.

The woman and Atkinson had been friends up until the attack. He was very remorseful in court Thursday.

“Me and her have always been friends from day one, and I never meant for it to go as far as it did,” Atkinson said in tears.

The victim was not present at Thursdays’ sentencing, but she wrote an impact statement which Kanawha County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Monika Jaensson read.

In the statement, the woman wrote that her life has been changed forever since the attack and that it has affected her entire family.

“I can’t go to my mother’s house without the whole thing just playing over and over again in my head,” Jaensson read. “Every day my scars will sting and itch and burn just like they did the day of the attack.”

“At one point, I couldn’t even leave my house because I had people making threats to my mother and writing things on the street out in front of our house, calling me a snitch and other things,” she continued.

The woman said she remembers lying on the ground yelling for help as Atkinson held her down. She said she saw neighbors watching the situation unfold but doing nothing to help as the dogs continued to gnaw at her thigh, neck, and side.

The victim said she knew Atkinson her entire life and that the situation has made it hard for her to trust anyone anymore.

“The world is not safe, people will be your best friend and then the next day, try to end your life,” she wrote.

If it wasn’t for one neighbor who finally came out to stop the attack, she wouldn’t have made it, the victim said.

For weeks after, the woman said she didn’t leave her house over threats that were made to her and her mother after she pressed charges on Atkinson.

Webster said the whole confrontation was over an allegation that the woman had taken $140 in marijuana from Atkinson.

After previously viewing frames of footage of the attack, Webster said in her observation, this was not a two-sided fight.

She said after hearing the victim’s testimony, it confirmed something for her that she had been trying to process, and that was, where was the community during the attack?

“Now I’ll admit and when I looked at it, I did not see fifty people standing around, but I wondered, how did she lay there, why was there a delay, why did somebody not respond,” Webster inquired.

Atkinson’s girlfriend and his father, Kenneth Atkinson also got up and testified in court Thursday. They said they need Zachary to come home, because he took care of the family.

Kenneth Atkinson feels Zachary should have gotten probation and that he could have gotten his GED at home. He said his son is very remorseful and regretful for what he’s done.

“He takes full responsibility for what he did and what happened, he does, and he told us that over the phone,” Kenneth said. “I’m just sad for his daughter, because that’s at least another six months.”

Kenneth said he also had two jobs at two different chemical plants lined up for Zachary when he got out of jail.

Atkinson has already served nearly a year in South Central Regional Jail for the incident.