January 20, 2018

Foul play ruled out as police say pit bulls ate owner

22 December 2017, 01:14 | Ruben Fields

Woman Found Dead After Her Own Dogs Maul Her While on a Walk

Two pit bulls mauled their owner to death during a walk in the woods in Virginia, sheriff says

Investigators in Goochland, Virginia, a rural community about 30 miles outside of Richmond, say the petite, 5-foot-1 young woman, who weighed a little more than 100 pounds, was mauled to death by her dogs, which had a combined weight of about twice hers, while out on a walk earlier this week.

She worked at a kennel and around trainers for a while, and she brought Tonka and Pac-Man with her to work.

The official cause of Stephens' death has not been announced as examination of the body is still underway. The examiner said this proves she was alive when she was attacked.

Stephens' friends said it has been hard not only to wrap their minds around the fact that they've lost a friend, but that the culprits are her two pets.

Goochland County sheriff Jim Agnew held a press conference on Monday, four days after Bethany Lynn Stephens' body was found from the wooded area she frequented, to quell rumours and widespread misinformation of foul play on social media.

He released details not previously released after a long discussion with Stephens' family.

"The medical examiner...made it pretty clear that it was not a large animal because the bite wounds didn't puncture her skull", Agnew said.

Many suspected that someone else killed her and doubted that the dogs were responsible. There, he found the canines, guarding what he first thought was an animal carcass.

Shawn Whitlock, an investigator with the sheriff's office, said there was no sign that she was killed any other way.

Meanwhile, one of the Stephens' best friends said she does not believe the animals would have done anything to hurt her, considering that she had raised them since they were puppies.

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"They were very large dogs ..." But the body was Stephens' and police say the pit bulls were eating her, he said. One friend told local media that the dogs were gentle.

"They'd kill you with kisses", Norris told NBC affiliate WWBT, adding that the dogs' kennels looked as though they had been forced open.

They were not fed daily.

"This was such a huge lifestyle change", Paul told WTVR.

Paul said, "The breed in and of itself is a high energy breed, they like to have a lot of structure and a lot of exercise, so by keeping them in a pin, alone, under socialized, away from people, that energy is just building up and building up and building up and that's when you start to see dogs fighting more regularly, that's when you start to see more negative scenarios".

No one can say for certain what exactly happened that afternoon.

She added that she believes there was "a good chance" the mauling "was energy gone wrong".

They were put down on Saturday with the family's permission. Now, investigators are looking for someone to perform a necropsy on the dogs. "[Stephens' father] wasn't taking care of them - it wasn't his responsibility", Blackwood said.

A post-mortem found no signs of foul play or damage inflicted by a human being on Bethany's body.

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