Police in Virginia have released new disturbing details about the grisly death of a 22-year-old woman who was killed by her own dogs. On Monday, Sheriff Jim Agnew called a late night press conference to share evidence with reporters, after getting the go-ahead from the victim’s family.
Agnew showed reporters photographs from the scene, according to NBC12. The images were so disturbing that no publication or television station is showing them to the public. They reveal that the two pet pit bulls ate parts of 22-year-old Bethany Lynn Stephens’s body.
Police also witnessed the dogs eating her, while they discussed what to do with the dogs.
"While we were thinking about strategies to catch the dogs, we had turned and looked, the dogs had gone back over to the body," says Sheriff Agnew. "And I observed, along with four other deputy sheriffs observed, the dog eating the rib cage on the body. We were able to shoo them away."
Photographs also showed that Stephens’s clothing was shredded and spread over a large area. Also visible in that area, a pool of blood. One of the dogs had blood on its fur, according to Agnew.
The young woman’s death has led to speculation that perhaps she was attacked by a larger animal, initially. Agnew addressed those speculations at Monday’s press conference.
"The medical examiner in his preliminary talk with our deputies made it pretty clear that it was not a large animal, because the bite wounds on her head did not penetrate her skull," he said.
Another official addressed other speculations of foul play.
"They did a CAT scan x-ray of her body before they even did the autopsy,” investigator Shawn Whitlock said at Monday’s press conference. "And there was nothing that said domestic violence. Nothing that said she was stabbed. Nothing that said she was shot. No bones broken. No injuries to the throat area."
Police also retracted initial statements that the two dogs were bred to fight. They were not fighting dogs.The two pets were euthanized on Saturday.
"I think it was in the best interest of our community and for public safety to do that," Agnew said. "Once a dog tastes human flesh, it's no longer safe to have that dog around humans."
According to Sergeant Mike Blackwood, the dogs suffered neglect.
"The dogs were a little bit neglected towards the end," he said, adding that the pit bulls lived with Stephens’s dad on his property, outside in the cold.
"She [Stephens] would come home maybe five times to her father's house a week on average and take the dogs out," Blackwood said. "And they became more isolated where the only contact they had was with each other and it was less and less human contact."
Stephens’ father made the grim discovery on Thursday after he went looking for his daughter. He found the two dogs near Stephens’ body, which they appeared to be “guarding,” according to WTVR. At first, he thought maybe they were just guarding an animal carcass.
Upon further inspection, he learned it was his daughter. Then, he called police.
Agnew said the family is absolutely devastated and he hopes that Monday’s late press conference will help combat the misinformation being spread on social media about the death.
"They are worn out,” he said, according to NBC12. “They are dealing with trying to piece everything together and filtering out the misinformation. They wish to remain private."