Investigator: Dogs who mauled, ate owner became increasingly isolated in recent months

Posted December 22, 2017

There is no foul play suspected in the death of a 22-year-old Virginia woman mauled by her two pit bulls, authorities say.

"I observed, as well as four other deputy sheriffs, the dogs eating the ribcage on the body", said Sheriff James Agnew. Agnew previously made several statements that he cleared up on Monday - after an avalanche of phone calls and social media - and he offered more detail.

"Let me cut right to the chase, the most important detail that we did not release because we were anxious about the well-being of the family is that the in the course of trying to capture the dogs early Friday morning.we turned and looked..."

A friend of Stephens was able to help capture the dogs, and they were taken to Goochland County Animal Control where they were eventually euthanized.

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"There was no evidence of any larger animal there", Agnew said in response to the widespread belief that perhaps Stephens was attacked by a wild animal, possibly a coyote or bear.

After her friends said Stephens had received death threats prior to her actual death, police looked into it and did find that there was a person considered to be a threat. "The victim had puncture wounds in the skull, and this was not a homicide".

The two dogs were put down on Saturday with the family's permission, and have been frozen pending necropsies. Nothing that said she was stabbed. There was no particular bleeding inside the esophagus, which would've been conducive with choking her out. "But. from the evidence that we observed, from the evidence that we collected, that narrative doesn't fit".

Agnew said that investigators are still conducting forensic tests and interviewing witnesses. "None of that", an investigator with the sheriff's office, Shawn Whitlock, told reporters. The sergeant added that when Bethany was only going home maybe five times a week, so the dogs became more isolated and didn't have any contact with other living things outside the pack of pups.

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Why did these dogs, who friends said had a strong bond with Stephens, turn on her? He added that the woman left her pets with her father, and that her dad "wasn't taking care of them - it wasn't his responsibility".

"I think it was in the best interest of our community and for public safety to do that", Agnew 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 pen, 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", Paul said. "They are dealing with trying to piece everything together". "Once a dog tastes human flesh, it's no longer safe to have that dog around humans". A toxicology report is being run on Stephens and is expected to be completed in about three months.

Paul said the "huge" lifestyle change could have caused them to maul their owner.

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