Sheriff: 'No doubt' that dogs mauled 22-year-old Va. woman to death; dogs euthanized

The Goochland County Sheriff's Office said 22-year-old Bethany Stephens was mauled to death by her own two dogs (Photo: CNN Newsource via WTVR)

GOOCHLAND Co., Va. (WSET) -- The Goochland County Sheriff's Office held a press conference Monday, December 18 to update the public on the investigation into a 22-year-old, who they said was mauled to death by her two dogs.

Sheriff James Agnew said after talking with Bethany Stephens' family for several hours Monday, they decided to release more details to the public.

Agnew said the sheriff's office got a call around 8:15 p.m. Thursday from Stephens' father who found the woman's body near Manakin Road.

When deputies got to the scene, they said Stephens had suffered "severe trauma" and was being guarded by the two dogs.

In the course of trying to capture the dogs early Friday morning, and while the sheriff and deputies were talking about strategies to catch the dogs, Agnew said they turned and saw the dogs eating the rib cage of Stephens.

Officials then shooed the dogs away and went to make a decision to either capture or shoot the dogs on the scene, when a friend of Stephens came forward and said he would try to capture them, and he did after several minutes, Agnew said in the press conference.

Agnew said it was very dark, but they were able to get the dogs confined and away from the public, that's when he said he finally saw Stephens' body and investigators were able to start collecting evidence. He reiterated how much of a gruesome scene it was.

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Investigators said it was evident that Stephens had been dead for quite some time.

They said her injuries were very severe, when they witnessed the autopsy, the Medical Examiner pointed out wounds to her hands, Agnew said he did not see before due to the incredible traumatic injuries to her face, arms, and chest area.

Sheriff Agnew said that several witnesses came forward and helped them put a time frame together, they do not believe Stephens was attacked by another animal and do not believe the dogs were trying to "protect her."

The sheriff said there was blood on at least one dog, with a significant amount on the dog's collar and neck.

Investigators said there is no evidence Stephens' death was caused by a larger animal. After preliminary discussions with the Medical Examiner, investigators said the bite wounds on Stephens' head did not penetrate her skull, and if it were a larger animal that would have happened.

They also said the scratch marks on Stephens were consistent with a smaller animal and her injuries were consistent with bite marks from a canine.

Investigators said she had no injuries that would have led them to believe she was beaten, choked, stabbed, or shot.

Also, Sheriff Agnew said the damage to Stephens' body was so extensive, there was nothing to compare bite marks to.

When asked if maybe something happened to her before and the dogs were guarding her after they smelled blood, investigators said based on her injuries, they believe some of them happened while she was still alive.

Officials said the dogs were neglected toward the end, as Stephens was not living at the home they were staying at. She left them with her father and visited about five times a week to take the dogs out. Officials believe the dogs became more isolated because they were kept outside when they were previously kept inside.

The dogs were euthanized Saturday at 11 a.m. and are being preserved until officials can perform a necropsy on them; officials also said they collected a urine sample from one of the dogs who "relieved himself" on the scene.

The sheriff's office said the family did give their blessing to have the dogs euthanized.

Sheriff Agnew also amended some facts previously shared about the dogs, saying they did not weigh more than 100 pounds.

Toxicology reports are pending on Stephens, and it will be about 90 days before they are available, that's when officials said they will have the cause of death.

The Medical Examiner also concluded that Stephens had not been sexually assaulted, but did conclude she was on her menstrual period, but could not say if that led to her being mauled by the dogs.

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