A woman in rural Virginia is believed to have been mauled to death by her two dogs, however some close to the victim say her dogs never would have attacked her, and that she had recently received death threats.
KTLA reports that Bethany Lynn Stephens of Goochland, Virginia, had been gone for a day since she left to walk her dogs, so her father went out in search of her. What he found was two dog guarding what he first believed was an animal carcass.
"Much to his horror, discovered that it was not," said Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew at a news conference on Friday.
Stephens was a petite woman, 5-foot-and weighing little more than 100 pounds; the dogs are said to have a combined weight of double that.
"The dogs clearly, at least in our estimation in a dark night, had something to do with this. It was an absolutely grisly mauling," Agnew told reporters. "In my 40 years of law enforcement, I've never seen anything quite like it. Hope I'd never see anything like it again."
Officials from the county's animal control department and sheriff's office tranquilized the dogs on the scene. The dogs appeared to have been bred for fighting, Agnew said.
"We spent a lot of time there at the scene and made some observations that, out of respect for the family, we're not releasing," Agnew said.
However, some are not convinced the dogs are responsible. Barbara Norris, described as Stephens' best friend, told WRIC that she didn’t believe the dogs would harm Stephens.
“I wasn’t able to see the body, so I can’t tell you what happened. I can’t tell you if it was a blunt force or if it was a mauling, but I know those dogs didn’t do it,” she said.
Other friends echoed the statement, and added that before Stephens died, she had received death threats. (Agnew said authorities do not believe Stephen was the victim of a homicide, because there were "no strangulation marks.")
Dr. Amy Learn, a local vet (who didn't know Stephens or her dogs), told WTVR that dogs don't typically attack their owners "out of the blue," and that many questions remain unanswered in the case.
“Was there somebody else there? Were they being attacked by somebody, were they trying to defend themselves and their owner from somebody else, from a wild animal? Was it actually something else that attacked the owner? Were there stray dogs, coyotes [or] something else in the woods,” she said.
The dogs are currently held at Goochland Animal Control and the Sheriff's Office said it is seeking to have them both euthanized.