Authorities Say Woman Was Mauled to Death by Her Dogs

Bethany Lynn Stephens

CHRIS MURPHY ATTACK The report indicated the dogs were the killers

A Virginia woman took her pet dogs for a walk in the woods near her home which turned into the big tragedy and led her to death. Deputies investigated the area overnight for several hours into Friday morning.

Cops said the 22-year-old suffered horrendous head and throat injuries in the attack that happened in the U.S. state of Virginia. Goochland Sheriff James Agnew said Sunday that, "the way he described it, he could not get to his daughter's body because the dogs were guarding the body and these were rather menacing dogs".

"The female had suffered severe trauma and was being guarded, for lack of a better word, by two very large, brindle colored pitbull dogs who were very reluctant to be caught", said Sheriff Jim Agnew.

Police said Stephens grew up in Goochland but lived in Glen Allen. "My heart goes out to her family and father", she said.

While Bethany was found with defensive wounds on her hands and arms, she also had puncture wounds to the skull and had wounds on her throat throat and face.

Amy L. Pike, of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, said, "Dogs don't just attack out of the blue".

Authorities said she was found by her father, who was searching for her in an area where she was known to take the dogs out for walks. "I wasn't able to see the body, so I can't tell you what happened". Asked if the dogs were friendly to her, Agnew said, "I don't know the answer to that".

They were tranquilised at the scene and removed by animal control.

There were no strangulation marks identified on the body, and although the investigation is still active, Agnew has ruled out homicide.

But Paul explained, "A lot of people are saying [the dogs] wouldn't guard if they killed, but the reality is if it's a resource, they may guard that as their food source or their toy the same way that a dog might guard a bone on a blanket".

This is backed up by Marcy Setter of the Pit Bull Rescue Center, who also told the publication: "There is not any breed of dog that is inherently more risky".

Agnew said that while he did not know the dogs' background, "they would be dogs that you would suspect would be bred for fighting".

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