Autopsy confirms Virginia woman was mauled to death by her own pit bulls
Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew said on Tuesday that the investigation into the death of 22-year-old Bethany Lynn Stephens has been closed in light of her autopsy results.
“The medical examiner’s report substantiated what we observed," said Sheriff Agnew. "I hope that the family can get some peace now. There are going to be those who aren’t going to believe and pick apart all the things that we’ve done, and that’s their prerogative, but unless somebody steps forward with some really strong evidence, we've closed this."
Stephens was found dead in the woods in Goochland County, Virginia, by her father on Dec. 14 at around 8 p.m.
After failing to hear from his daughter that night, the concerned parent called 911 and then went looking for her in an area where she often walked her two dogs, Pac-Man and Tonka.
Stephens's father eventually discovered his daughter's mangled body, which he said was being aggressively "guarded" by the two pit bulls.
Sheriff Agnew said that once officers arrived at the scene, they spent over an hour trying to capture the large pit bulls, which were believed to both weigh as much as their 5-foot-1, 125-pound owner.
Stephens' body was then taken to a medical examiner's office, where the gruesome details of the attack came to light.
"The first traumatic injury to her was to her throat and face," Sheriff Agnew said after reviewing the medical examiner's initial report. "It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death."
"The victim had defensive wounds on her hands and arms trying to keep the dogs away from her, which would be consistent with being attacked while she was still alive."
The medical examiner's final report, released on Feb. 20, confirmed their initial beliefs.
"Overall, the combination of wounds is consistent with the mauling by an animal or animals, possibly dogs," the report says. "Additionally, there was evidence of extensive postmortem animal predation at the face, torso and arms."
The report says no drugs or alcohol were found in Stephens' system and that there was no evidence of a gunshot, strangulation or any other kind of attack.
"Stephens was not raped, and this was not a homicide," the report declares.
The Sheriff’s Office said one of the dogs had a history of aggression and had snapped at a previous owner. Both animals were euthanized with the permission of Stephens' family following the attack.
"It was an absolutely grisly mauling," Sheriff Agnew said. "In my 40 years of law enforcement, I've never seen anything quite like it. I hope I never see anything like it again."