Details Revealed in Dog Mauling of Virginia Woman Found in Woods

(Trigger warning: graphic description of violence)

New details have been released in the case of the Virginia woman killed by her dogs. After many locals raised doubts that the dogs were actually responsible, the sheriff’s deputies who found her body went public with graphic facts about her death.

According to police, Bethany Lynn Stephens (22) was killed by her dogs while walking them on December 14th. Her father called emergency services after discovering her body in the woods and told them that the dogs appeared to be “guarding” her. It took locals over an hour to capture the dogs, which were later put down.

“In the course of trying to capture the dogs early Friday morning…I observed, as well as four other deputy sheriffs, the dogs eating the ribcage on the body,” Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew said, during a recent press conference. Agnew pointed out that Stephens had “defensive wounds on her hands and arms,” which was consistent with her dogs attacking her while she was still alive.

And, while some initially believed that Stephens had been mauled by a wild animal like a bear, the bites were too shallow to belong to a bear and more closely matched canine teeth. “It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death,” Agnew concluded.

Agnew was initially reluctant to release the findings from the Medical Examiners’ office, as he believed the information would be distressing to the family. But many locals were initially reluctant to blame the dogs and speculated that someone else had killed her and that the dogs had merely started eating her afterward. The sheriff’s department was “inundated” with wild speculations and theories from the public about how Stephens might have died. Agnew was troubled by the misinformation, so, after a long discussion with Stephens’ family, he released the graphic details about her death to reassure the public that there wasn’t a killer on the loose. 

The sheriff’s department doesn’t suspect foul play.“We had a number of witnesses come forward and we were able to put a time frame together and people’s movements together and they don’t fit with that particular narrative,” Agnew said. “Having said that, we are still following up on those; we are still doing forensic tests.”

It is still unclear why the dogs might have attacked Stephens. However, the dogs had experienced an extreme upset in their personal routine and had been neglected in the weeks leading up to the attack. Stephens treated the dogs “like her children,” but changes in her personal circumstances meant that she had to leave the dogs with her father and visit weekly. The dogs lived outside, “in the cold,” and were not fed every day. When asked about the case, certified master dog trainer Valerie Paul explained that such lifestyle changes can change the temperament of animals. “This was such a huge lifestyle change,” Paul said. “There are so many factors within that lifestyle change that we may see as small things that the dogs may see as larger.”

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