Woman mauled to death by her own dogs

Alan Olson
December 22, 2017

Investigators say the two dogs who mauled their 22-year-old owner to death in Goochland County had been increasingly isolated before they turned on her.

The Goochland County Sheriff and four deputies witnessed twenty-two-year-old Bethany Stephens' two dogs devouring her body in a wooded area on the morning of December 15, in a case that has captured global attention.

Agnew said many have inundated his office and social media with calls, emails, attacks and false narratives about how Stephens died.

"Let me cut right to the chase, the most important detail that we did not release because we were anxious about the well-being of the family is that the in the course of trying to capture the dogs early Friday morning.we turned and looked..." Agnew said Stephens had sustained "incredibly traumatic" wounds to her arms, chest and face, as well as bites on her hands. Agnew said if she had been attacked by a bigger animal, such as a bear, the bites would have punctured her skull.

The autopsy showed no signs of trauma, that some of the attack injuries were made while she was still alive and that her wounds are consistent with a smaller animal - not a coyote or wolf. He told police that it seemed as though her dogs were "guarding" her body. Deputies witnessed the animals eating Stephens' rib cage; her body was dismembered and she was found completely naked except for one boot. The animals have since been captured, and were put down on December 16 after officials received permission from Bethany's family. Nothing that said she was stabbed.

"The fact that they are pit bulls doesn't connect to what they did, it is a dog thing", said Paul, who is also owner of the kennel Impawsible Pups. "None of that", an investigator with the sheriff's office, Shawn Whitlock, told reporters. It became a question of whether to kill the dogs or try to capture them.

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He said Stephens' relatives have requested for the dogs to be euthanized.

But while isolation and neglect could've been a major factor, Goochland, Virginia County Sheriff James Agnew also made a note that there isn't "any way definitively that we can say what caused the attack". He added that the woman left her pets with her father, and that her dad "wasn't taking care of them - it wasn't his responsibility".

"What I observed personally, it was in the community's best interest", Agnew said.

Sheriff Agnew said once that takes place it will be about two weeks before results are available and there could potentially be more answers as to what may have happened.

"I don't want to disparage a particular breed", he added, "but if you do the research, I think you'll find that many of those are perpetrated by pit bulls".

The toxicology reports on Stephens should be back in 90 days. "They are dealing with trying to piece everything together...they wish to remain private". "Once a dog tastes human flesh, it's no longer safe to have that dog around humans".

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