A woman from Goochland County, Virginia was found mauled to death after taking her two pit bulls for a walk in the woods. Police blamed her two pets, owned by Bethany Lynn Stephens.
Her father made the grim discovery on Thursday after he went looking for his 22-year-old 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.
“Much to his horror, discovered that it was not,” Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew said at a press conference on Friday.
“It appeared the attack was a violent attack initiated by the victims’ dogs while the victim was out for a walk with the dogs,” Agnew said. “The victim had defensive wounds on her hands and arms trying to keep the dogs away from her, which would be consistent with being attacked while she was still alive. It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death.”
Agnew said that the first wounds the 100-pound woman suffered were to her throat and face.
It is unclear why the dogs would attack their owner.
Stephens’s friend, Barbara Norris, doesn’t believe that her friend’s two beloved dogs would kill her.
“They’d kill you with kisses,” Norris told NBC affiliate WWBT. The friend also claimed that it looked like someone forced the pit bulls’ kennels open. She hinted that there may have been foul play on some level.
Dr. Amy Learn, a veterinarian who has never met Stephens, told Fox 5 San Diego, “I think the investigation needs to be ongoing. Dogs don’t typically just out of the blue attack their owners, so there is typically some kind of provocation. [...] “Was there somebody else there? Were they being attacked by somebody, were they trying to defend themselves and their owner from somebody else, from a wild animal? Was it actually something else that attacked the owner? Were there stray dogs, coyotes [or] something else in the woods.”
But, on Saturday, Agnew said he was certain that Stephens was indeed killed by her dogs, citing wound marks and other evidence found at the scene. Officials have ruled out homicide or other causes of death.
According to the Washington Post, Stephens’ family members have requested both dogs be euthanized.
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