The officers found Bethany Lynn Stephens' body, guarded by her two dogs, when they turned back around, they saw that the dogs had walked over to the body.
Rumors swirled around the death of Bethany Lynn Stephens, a young woman from rural Virginia who, authorities said, was mauled to death by her dogs while out on a walk last week.
Many suspected that someone else killed her and doubted that the dogs were responsible. Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew said the misinformation, particularly on social media, was widespread and has complicated the investigation. So he decided to disclose one gruesome detail that he had been reluctant to divulge out of concern for Stephens’ family – in hopes of reassuring the public that there isn’t a killer on the loose.
Shortly after officers found Stephens’ body, guarded by her two dogs, they began talking about how to catch the animals. When they turned back around, they saw that the dogs had walked over to the body.
“I observed, as well as four other deputy sheriffs observed,” Agnew said, then paused before continuing, “the dogs eating the rib cage on the body.”
A friend of Stephens’ was later able to capture the dogs, the sheriff said.
Agnew held a news conference Monday afternoon, four days after Stephens’ father found her in a wooded area about a half-mile from the main road in Goochland, Virginia, a community about 30 miles outside Richmond. Authorities said the 22-year-old had out about a day since leaving to walk her dogs. So her father went out to look for her in the area she frequently visits. There, he found the canines, guarding what he first thought was an animal carcass.
“Ms Stephens was terrible. She had terrible injuries. But it was very apparent to us that she had been dead for quite some time”. Agnew told reporters, adding later that the damage to her body “was so extensive that there was nothing left to compare bite marks too.”
Agnew said many have inundated his office and social media with calls, emails, attacks and false narratives about how Stephens died. He told The Washington Post earlier that investigators don’t suspect foul play and that evidence recovered from the scene, including defensive wounds on her hands and arms, showed that the dogs were responsible for her death.
Investigators also looked into statements from other witnesses. Including the possibility that Stephens was killed by someone or something else and that the dogs were trying to protect her. But investigators don’t believe that is what happened. Agnew said at least one of the dogs had a significant amount of blood on its collar and neck.
“Now, having said that, we are still following up on those. We’re still doing some forensic tests. We’re still doing interviews,” Agnew said. “But . . . from the evidence that we observed, from the evidence that we collected, that narrative doesn’t fit.”
Authorities said the bite marks on Stephens, including the ones on her skull, were consistent with canine marks. If the attack was from a large animal such as a bear, there would be puncture marks on her skull.
Shawn Whitlock, an investigator with the sheriff’s office, said there was no sign of other means in her death.