Authorities shed light on the circumstances surrounding the horrific death of a 22-year-old Virginia woman who was reported missing by her father and found the next day in a wooded area near her home.
Bethany Lynn Stephens was reported missing on Wednesday by her father when he didn’t see her for a day. He was the one who found his daughter’s body – and the dogs that are believed to have taken her life.
“(Her body) was being guarded by two very large, brindle-colored pit bull dogs,” Goochland County Sheriff James L. Agnew said during a news conference on Friday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Agnew confirmed that the dogs belonged to Stephens and were likely bred for fighting. Reading from an initial autopsy report, he described the cause of death as “consistent with being mauled by these dogs.”
“The first traumatic injury to her was to her throat and face,” Agnew said. “It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death.”
Stephens was alive when the animals attacked her and sustained defensive wounds on her hands and arms. Investigators have ruled out homicide.
“It was an absolutely grisly mauling,” Agnew said. “In my nearly 40 years in law enforcement, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I hope I never see anything like that again.”
It took deputies several hours to get the dogs – each of which weighed as much as Stephens – under control. Animal control officers from a neighboring county were called in and forced to use tranquilizers on the pit bulls, which are now being held by Goochland County Animal Control and are expected to be euthanized.